Flanders donation ‘incubates’ jobs

Published 10:51 pm Friday, February 4, 2011

Staff Writer

Flanders Filters announced the donation of a 50,000-square-foot complex of buildings in Bath to the Beaufort County Committee of 100.
The seven buildings in this complex have been appraised at $772,000, related John Oakley, president and chief financial officer of the Washington-based company.
The buildings conveyed to the nonprofit Committee of 100 will be used as business “incubators” for start-up businesses or young companies relocating to the area.
“We think it’s important to invest where we are,” Oakley told Committee of 100 guests and members Thursday afternoon in a presentation at the Washington Civic Center.
Flanders consolidated the operation that was located in the Bath complex, and no jobs were lost as a result of that move, Oakley shared.
The Flanders donation was applauded during Thursday’s committee meeting.
“That was the largest corporate contribution we’ve had to date,” said Tom Thompson, Beaufort County’s chief economic developer.
The idea behind the incubator is to let businesses come into the county at little or no rent, with gradual rent increases to follow as those outfits grow, Thompson explained.
The committee plans never to sell the buildings but keep them as industrial nurseries, he indicated.
The publicly funded Beaufort County Economic Development Commission works in partnership with the privately funded Committee of 100 to help create jobs in the county.
In a related development, Thompson announced the committee already had recruited the first “incubator” business to be housed at the old Flanders property.
That business is Bridges Consulting &Manufacturing.
Gary Bridges, owner of the business, told the Washington Daily News he has designed and developed a boat-lifting system with manufacturing targeting a five-state region in the South.
Bridges said he has two partners in the venture, and he anticipates employing 20 to 30 people within five years.
“Boat manufacturing is in a real lull,” Bridges said in an interview, adding the market is stronger for after-market products and that he is seeing gradual improvement in sales of boating products.
Bridges said the former Flanders space is convenient because its ready availability makes it easier for him to grow his business without collecting a lot of capital up front.
He said he needs about 7,000 square feet to meet his business needs, and could have met those needs in nearby Greenville, but decided to stay local.
“I live here in Washington and would like to stay in the area,” he said.
Flanders celebrated its 60th anniversary last fall, Oakley said.
The company generates around $250 million in annual revenue and has 11 locations worldwide, he said.
Last year, Flanders closed two Mexican facilities, bringing jobs back to North Carolina, Oakley continued.
Flanders employs 2,400 people across the world, with 1,900 of those in the United States, he said. About 1,204 of these employees are in North Carolina, and 577 are in Beaufort County, he said.
The company has an annual payroll base of approximately $19.1 million in Beaufort County, Oakley stated.
“We’ve enjoyed our home base for many, many years,” he said.