A failed strategy

Published 2:58 pm Wednesday, July 24, 2013

To the Editor:

Beaufort County’s industrial-park strategy continues as a financial failure and a planning fiasco. After funneling over $6,500,000 into two industrial parks and spending $3,500,000 on an Economic Development Commission that was never able to submit an accurate or believable annual report of its own activities, the county commissioners have recently learned that they cannot even pay people to take free land at the industrial park.

In August 2011, a five-acre site at the Beaufort County Industrial Park was given to a local firm that expressed its intent to develop a 50,000-square-foot building on the property. The land grant served as the matching funds to attract a separate $95,000 incentive grant from Raleigh for the same firm. This hoped-for project would have relieved the county of an otherwise useless parcel of land and increased the county’s real-estate tax base. However, by the spring of 2013, there had been no progress on the project, and by June of this year the grant recipient had purchased a vacant and preferable facility on Old Bath Highway. Rather than proceed at the industrial park, the grant recipient has chosen to surrender the property it received back to the county.  

Beaufort County’s economic-development clique has created an industrial park that cannot attract private developers even with the offer of free land and a cash kicker.

Taxpayers need to remember that the Beaufort County Industrial Park is only one of our two industrial park failures. There is a second commercial wasteland on Frederick Road. The Chocowinity Industrial Park has no tenants and no real prospects; therefore, it has become the latest candidate as a relocation site for the county jail.  The county commissioners seem to have realized that the best chance of drawing tenants to the industrial parks is to bring them there in chains.

The end game of 10 years of economic development is two industrial parks that can find no higher use than as prison facilities and whose greatest economic impact is to despoil the City of Washington by diminishing the economic benefits it has derived from its traditional role as the county seat.

Warren Smith

Beaufort County