Chocowinity park given green light

Published 9:08 pm Sunday, July 20, 2014

 CHOCOWINITY — Over the past six months, industrial site evaluators, at the behest of Duke Energy, dissected 18 industrial parks around the state to determine how competitive a given site would be on the industrial marketplace. Chocowinity Industrial Park was one of those sites, and it turns out, Chocowinity is pretty competitive.

Last week, local stakeholders in Beaufort County economic development turned out for the assessment of the industrial park’s strengths and weaknesses  compiled in a Site Readiness study by Duke Energy and presented by McCallum Sweeney consultants. Evaluators deemed the Chocowinity site as ideal for light industrial manufacturing and assembly, but its access to rail, running through the site, could be a major draw for industries looking to set up shop, according to the consulting firm.

In McCallum Sweeney consultants’ estimation, Beaufort County’s coastal plains landscape and river offer an attractive quality of life, while the county’s large percentage of manufacturing workforce — five percent higher than the state average — is another draw.

According to Duke Energy Senior Consultant Randy Broome, the energy company began taking an active role in economic development within its service area to fill a gap where textiles and manufacturing used to be. The Site Readiness studies are part of the company’s own efforts to recruit industry to the state—the more prepared a site is  for industry, the more infrastructure in place, the more perceived weaknesses that can be turned into strengths, the more attractive a site will be to industry. McCallum Sweeney may perform the Site Readiness assessment, but the company’s main business is to put industries on site.

“They look at a site through the eye of an industrial prospector,” Broome said.

Mark Sweeney, senior principal with McCallum Sweeney, said the importance of site assessments and certification at the state level lies in attractive investments and bringing jobs to a community — a prospect more competitive than ever.

While the Southeast region is the most attractive to industry, the competition for that industry is strong. Sweeney said clients looking for new industrial sites are profit driven, deadline driven and risk averse. What translates to is a desire for a less expensive proposition, perhaps in the form of tax incentives, major infrastructure already in place and the certainty provided by more in-depth technical and geographical studies.

“Once they decide where they want, there’s a limited time to get up and running,” Sweeney said. “Projects are competitive — our clients have genuine choices.”

Being able to provide assessments quickly also gives economic developers a competitive advantage.

Sarah White, also with McCallum Sweeney, presented Chocowinity Industrial Park’s list of strengths and weaknesses and encouraged local officials to go ahead and set up protective covenants and restrictions before the first tenant moves in.

Wrapping up the presentation, Jay Smith, director of landscape architecture with O’Brien/Atkins Associates, called Chocowinity’s park “a great site,” with no terrain issues barring bridging streams and wetlands, and a lot of buildable area.

“You just don’t come across big-acre sites like this,” Smith said.

Smith said with the park’s good soil and light industry application additional support in concrete footings will not be necessary.

During the following question and answer period, Sweeney addressed the need for incentives to sway industry, saying that a community should cover the infrastructure costs of an industrial park, rather than industry. However, he said, “The return on investment is very, very high.”

He urged county leadership to set up incentives.

“Fact of the matter is that companies have choices and incentives are part of the process,” Sweeney said.



Chocowinity Industrial Park



246.44 total acres with 186.26 developable acres

Owned by Beaufort County

Located outside the 100- and 500-year flood zones

Already zoned light industrial




Park is already zoned Light Industrial. No zoning change will be necessary.

Electric, water and telecommunications infrastructure are at the property.

Land price has been established.

Property has direct access to U.S. Highway 17.

Property is divided by the Norfolk Southern rail line and provider has shown willingness to serve site.

Park has access to coastal ports.

Manufacturing workforce in Beaufort County is 18.7 percent, above the state average of 13.6 percent.

Attractive quality of life.



Could be perceived as weaknesses:

Proximity to airports.

Rail may need to cross potential streams/wetlands in order to serve some parcels of the park.

Natural gas infrastructure is at the park, but may only be suitable for large users.

Wastewater infrastructure will require upgrades, at an estimated cost of $600,000.

Beaufort County has had less overall job growth over the past three years (0.4 percent, as opposed to the state average of 4.0 percent).

High school degree and bachelor’s degree attainment is lower than the state average.