Pender Site Becomes AT&T's First Fiber Ready Business Park In State

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Pender Commerce Park has scored a technology first for AT&T in North Carolina, company officials announced Thursday evening.

The park, located on U.S. 421, has been designated AT&T Fiber Ready, the first business park in North Carolina to receive the designation. This means that high-speed Internet is now available to the park’s tenants, AT&T spokesman Josh Gelinas said Thursday.

Currently the park is home to ACME Smoked Fish Co. as well as the Pender County wastewater treatment plant. A second industrial tenant, Empire Distributors of North Carolina Inc., will complete purchase on an almost 18-acre parcel by the end of 2015 and begin construction of its new facility in early 2016, according to Pender Board of Commissioners chairman David Williams.

These and future tenants will benefit from the presence of fiber, Gelinas said.

“The Fiber Ready designation will better allow AT&T and the owner or developer of a designated property to promote the availability of advanced broadband communications infrastructure and the advanced capacity of the buildings/facilities within the development,” he said in an email, adding that there are other business parks in the state equipped with fiber from AT&T, but they have not yet received the designation, either because they are unaware of the designation or they have not fulfilled all the requirements.

"We plan to provide the designation elsewhere in the future. Pender is the first," Gelinas said.

Increasingly, companies seek locations that are equipped with high-speed Internet, according to Wilmington Business Development CEO Scott Satterfield.

"For a business considering a relocation or expansion, the presence of fiber optics and high-speed communications infrastructure is always among its top priorities in evaluating a site,” Satterfield said in a news release about the designation. “This Fiber Ready designation clearly shows the presence of modern communications services and can be a valuable tool as we continue to aggressively recruit businesses which rely on advanced technologies.”

Williams said that WBD has been marketing the commerce park aggressively to other potential tenants. The successful first phase and upcoming expansion of the ACME facility has been a good marketing tool, he continued, and the park’s corporate partners, including AT&T and Duke Energy, are an “absolute necessity” for further growth.

As business becomes increasingly reliant on speed and capacity in electronic communications, more sites are installing this infrastructure because tenants expect it, officials say.

Creating the infrastructure to handle high-speed Internet and voice services has paid off for EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, which in early 2012 spent an estimated $1.5 million to design and installed its own fiber network. That network was critical to the success of Ironman 3 and other film and television projects that subsequently used the studios, said Wilmington studios executive vice president Bill Vassar.

In justifying the need, Vassar told company officials that potential clients may not think to ask about high-speed communications capacity, but they will soon express dissatisfaction if they find existing capacity not equal to their needs.

“It’s reverse marketing,” he added.”If we don’t do it, we will run into problems.”

Like the Pender Commerce Park, whose fiber system will accommodate differing needs of its growing tenant roster, EUE/Screen Gems' system must be flexible in its ability to customize service to a variety of clients, Vassar said.

In Brunswick County, telephone cooperative ATMC has been deploying fiber to residential and business customers for the past 10 years, according to Kris Ward, residential development and special projects manager.

In an email earlier this month, Ward said ATMC is the "only company providing Gigabit Internet anywhere in the region," adding that the Leland Industrial Park has had the technology available "for some time" and ATMC is ready to proceed at the International Logistics Park site at the Columbus/Brunswick county line when a tenant commits to that location.

Meanwhile, Williams believes that AT&T's Fiber Ready designation will help WBD and other officials market his county's business park.

“The fact that Pender is home to the first AT&T Fiber Ready park in the state reflects the great work being done here in the community and to grow our economy,” he said in the announcement news release. “This designation can be a tremendous asset for our economic development leaders as they continue to work to attract businesses and jobs to our region.”

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