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Company Plans To Bring $400M Investment, 1,000 Jobs To Area

By Staff Reports, posted Jan 5, 2022
The Pender Commerce Park, shown in a 2018 aerial image, was developed on a portion of the old BASF vitamin plant property. (File photo)

An unnamed company is considering bringing 1,000 new jobs to land owned by Pender County.

Monday, Pender County Commissioners accepted a $500,000 grant from the North Carolina-based Golden Leaf Foundation – the largest amount the nonprofit has ever awarded through its Open Grants Program. The funds will be used to remediate Pender County’s old BASF vitamin plant property, which has sat dormant since the company closed for good in 2009. 

“Project C,” as it’s referred to in grant documents, is expected to bring $400 million in real and personal property investments. The average wage will be $31,200. 

Golden LEAF increased its grant cap for the Open Grants Program in June 2021, according to a spokesperson for the nonprofit. So far, Pender County is the sole awardee of a $500,000 grant through the program. 

“The Golden LEAF Board of Directors reviews several aspects of economic development projects including number of full time jobs, amount of capital investment, as well as other funding being offered for the project,” the spokesperson wrote in an email, addressing how the foundation came to approve this project.

Primarily used to manufacture vitamin C products, several old buildings, warehouses and utilities remain on BASF’s old site. It was originally built in the 1980s by Takeda Chemical Products USA, which BASF acquired in 2001. Demolition of the buildings is required prior to the land sale to the undisclosed business, according to grant documents. 

Last year, the county sought environmental services to get the property shovel-ready, after a state groundwater monitoring program found chloride contaminants were still present on the brownsfield site. 

The property, adjacent to the existing Pender Commerce Park, bisects the New Hanover-Pender County line, with the company previously owning more than 1,000 acres along U.S. Highway 421.

A portion of the company’s old property was used to develop the commerce park, which lured its first tenant in Acme Smoked Fish in 2013. The park has since grown to attract new tenants, including FedEx, Polyhose, Coastal Beverages, Empire Distributors and Atlantic Tire Distributors, which recently leased roughly 22% of a speculative shell building. 

Steps to get the park ready for redevelopment began in the 2000s, with Pender County picking up 380 acres for $4 million in 2006 and another 396 acres in 2010 for $1.6 million, both purchased from BASF. 

Golden LEAF notified Pender County of its grant approval Dec. 6. The county then issued a request for proposals on Jan. 1, seeking decommissioning and demolition services for the buildings, roads, and utilities at 101 Vitamin Drive. The county intends to award a bid for the project on Jan. 28 with the goal of final completion by April 4.

Commissioners quickly and gleefully accepted the award Monday. Commissioner Jackie Newton credited former commissioner and Rep. Carolyn Justice, who she said was “instrumental” in securing the grant. 

Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development, said he could not provide comment at this time. 

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