More grant funds sought for industrial park

Published 7:13 am Wednesday, February 20, 2008

By Staff
Southtech working on moving to park
Staff Writer
By “moving some puzzle pieces,” Beaufort County officials may have devised a way to pay for rising construction costs at the Chocowinity Industrial Park without significantly increasing the county’s expenditure.
Beaufort County Manager Paul Spruill said the N.C. Department of Commerce has agreed to set the baseline job-creation benchmark for Southtech Plastics at 65 jobs, down from 74 jobs. The company still expects to hit its job-creation target of about 100 total jobs, according to Spruill.
The extra grant money will be used to cover some costs of several possible projects associated with Southtech’s relocation to the 274-acre industrial park. The New Bern-based company molds plastic for use in building automobiles, boats and custom buses. The company’s relocation to Beaufort County was formally announced in October 2007.
Cost overruns are expected to arise with the construction of a 4,000-foot-long industrial drive from U.S. Highway 17 to Frederick Road that will bisect the park, a 790-foot cul-de-sac road that extends to Southtech’s 10-acre lot and a rail spur (proposed) from the existing Norfolk-Southern Railroad track to that lot.
The county has also sidestepped waiting for the N.C. Department of Transportation to design the roadway through the industrial park. Instead, the county agreed to pay Wooten and Company $183,300 to design the road in an effort “to speed things along,” Spruill said. Southtech is considering partnering with the county to build the rail spur, which will allow it to transport raw materials directly to its manufacturing facility at the park.
The company is expected to be up and running in Chocowinity by January 2009. It is in the process of obtaining stormwater permits and finalizing its site layout, according to Tom Thompson, the county’s chief economic developer. Thompson said any cost overruns associated with the company’s move are characteristic of the “fluid” nature of construction.
Thompson said he is confident there is grant money available for necessary expenses, including the road construction, which is estimated to cost about $1 million. Golden LEAF has already given Southtech $1 million in grants to construct a 62,500-square-foot facility at the industrial park. The foundation, which administers tobacco-settlement funds for previously tobacco-dependent counties, has also awarded $1 million in grants to the Chocowinity Industrial Park, which is owned by the Beaufort County Committee of 100.
Thompson said the industrial park will prove to be an economic boon for the county once it is completed.