The recent environmental controversy over two industrial companies looking to further business in Wilmington could send the wrong message in future economic development efforts for the region, officials said.
Natalie English, president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, said that while the community should be looking at the impacts of future development and hold these types of discussions, emotions should not take over “science and fact.”
“It becomes a challenge in the economic development space,” she said. “That’s when we will start to send a message that we might not be open for business.”
City of Wilmington and New Hanover County leaders have each approved an incentives package of up to $580,000 and resolutions of support for Charlotte-based drywall maker National Gypsum to bring business back to the Wilmington area.
That decision came 30 days after both county commissioners and city council members decided to halt discussions about the incentives because of public concerns about the potential environmental effects of formaldehyde, a chemical listed on the company’s 2016 state-issued air permit, on surrounding communities.
National Gypsum officials offered insight into its production process to try to ease community concerns, company officials said.
The company was pleased to see the nod from local leaders, said National Gypsum spokeswoman Nancy Spurlock.
“We were happy we could talk not only with them, but also with concerned members of the community,” she said. “The company will soon make its decision on the plant’s reopening.”
National Gypsum is considering reopening its shuttered plant in Wilmington that could add 51 jobs and bring $25 million in capital improvements. The local plant, which stopped operations in 2009, is competing with a National Gypsum site in Florida.
English said the scenario involving National Gypsum is an example of how assumptions can delay decision-making processes that aim to bring jobs to Wilmington.
Another Wilmington company, Tima Capital Inc., had previously requested to modify its air quality permit to enable a change in owners from Royal Pest Solutions to Tima Capital Inc. and increase its use of the fumigant methyl bromide, according to NCDEQ. That business, which conducts fumigations for pest control on logs into containers for export, also raised environmental concerns for some in the community.
The companies, however, sought to withdraw the draft air permit and cease fumigation operations on its Sunnyvale Drive site by April 10. As of press time, Tima officials had yet to comment on what future plans are for the site.
English said she is “vaguely aware” of what is happening with Tima and did not make further comment on the company. In the case of National Gypsum, however, the chamber has been supportive, she said.
“We believe that a diversity in the type of jobs is critical as we continue to grow our economy … we have to be able to offer jobs in all types of industries: film, high tech, marine bio science and industrial manufacturing jobs,” English said.