Economic development initiatives in Columbus County are moving forward with an emphasis on the county’s industrial sites and focusing on various industries, including food processing, aerospace and advanced manufacturing, said Gary Lanier, director of the Columbus County Economic Development Commission (EDC) and Columbus County Planning Board.
The county economic development group is continuing recruiting efforts with its local, regional and state partners. The city of Whiteville also has efforts underway to further economic development in the city.
Here are some recent highlights.
• The Columbus County EDC has recruited a company looking to purchase the former Nice Blends building, which was a sweet potato fries plant that’s been shuttered about three years, Lanier said. That company, Southern Belle Organics, an organic berry grower and processor, was awarded a $264,000 grant from the N.C. Rural Infrastructure Authority to help renovate the 59,000-square-foot building in Whiteville. The company plans to relocate some of its processing operations to the facility. The project is expected to create 33 jobs and attract about $674,000 in private investment.
“The company has contracts, distribution contracts with some of your major grocery stores,” Lanier said, adding that the company brings potential for the local farming community to “diversify into more, higher-margin products.”
• Malec Brothers Transport LLC is seeking to locate a log exporting operation on Cronly Drive in Delco. There has been some public pushback to the proposal because of potential fumigation operations. While Columbus County EDC did not recruit the company, Lanier said, “We’re waiting to see what the state decides as far as air quality permits and the whole fumigation process. But that certainly could create some jobs not only on the site itself but also within the local logging community.”
• A major construction company is looking to site a project close to the Southeast Regional Park that could bring as many as 30-35 additional jobs to the county, Lanier said.
• There are also some potential developments with a former Georgia- Pacific industrial site in between Whiteville and Chadbourn purchased by R.J. Corman Railroad Group LLC this year for more than $2 million. “There are people evaluating the site as a potential location, but nothing is firm at this point in time,” Lanier said.
• Efforts to bring water and sewer to the International Logistics Park of North Carolina and Mid-Atlantic Industrial Rail Park, two industrial sites at more than 1,000 acres each, are moving forward with engineering design work, Lanier said. The project is being coordinated between Columbus and Brunswick counties, due to the sites’ locations near the county line.
• The Columbus County EDC is working with its regional partner, North Carolina’s Southeast Regional Economic Development Partnership, to develop an email marketing campaign to help market some of its industrial parks, including its food-certified industrial park, the Southeast Regional Park near Whiteville.
• Columbus County has also been a part of the regional marketing campaign, Choose Cape Fear, led by the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.
NEW POSITION COMING
• According to Whiteville officials, the city has submitted an application for the N.C. Main Street program through N.C. Department of Commerce and is partnering with the Whiteville Downtown Development Commission. With that effort the city has opened a position for an economic development planner who would work on business and economic development for downtown as well as facilitate the Main Street program, should Whiteville be selected, officials said