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Incentives Package Includes Facility For Port Activity

By Johanna F. Still, posted Feb 21, 2022
Three companies are planning to expand their existing operations and one is considering locating in Wilmington, with plans to bring a new service to Port of Wilmington customers. (Photo courtesy North Carolina State Ports Authority)

A $2.6 million local incentives package for four separate companies includes a large warehouse logistics provider catering to the Port of Wilmington. Combined, the companies intend to bring more than 1,000 new jobs to the area.

Prior to Monday morning’s New Hanover County Board of Commissioners meeting, few details about the four prospective companies had been publicly disclosed. At the meeting, officials divulged some context to the three planned expansions of existing Wilmington businesses and the potential for a new business to enter the area.

Commissioners approved their $1.9-million commitment to their portion of the incentive packages, which also includes another $695,000 from the city of Wilmington. Wilmington City Council is scheduled to vote on its slate of incentives for the four projects on March 1. Any additional state funds have not yet been announced.

Port tie-in

Wilmington Business Development CEO Scott Satterfield told the commissioners that his team has been working to lure “Project Speed” for years. The logistics company is “looking to mitigate risk by diversifying its clients' gateways of entry during the international supply chain pinch,” Satterfield said. 

It would construct a 120,000-square-foot cross-dock facility, he told the board. This kind of facility does not yet exist in Wilmington, he said. Satterfield did not say where the facility is being considered.

An N.C. State Ports Authority spokesperson said Monday that the agency had no additional information to provide. 

In general, cross-dock facilities minimize the need for off-site warehousing by offering an area where an array of goods are unloaded from inbound freight, inspected and sorted in a warehouse area and reloaded for delivery into outbound freight. This type of facility is useful for time-sensitive freight that cannot spend excessive time in transit or storage. 

“We believe that this company will provide logistical solutions for local, regional and statewide importers and exporters while driving additional volumes through our great port here in Wilmington,” Satterfield said to the commissioners.

Commissioners were briefed in closed session with details of the companies and their plans since economic development projects are not subject to the state's public records law until companies make their decisions whether to expand or locate. The N.C. Department of Commerce also is considering offering its own incentives to the companies, according to local officials. 

“I know that some of this warehousing will also splash into the refrigerated sector of that, which affects ... all of Southeast North Carolina and throughout the eastern part of North Carolina as far as bringing agricultural goods, pork, poultry to market and being able to get that onto ships in a refrigerated way to spread out to the entire world again and certainly our nation,” Commissioner Rob Zapple said. “This is a wonderful expansion on many different ways.” 

Satterfield said the company would create a range of positions, including dredge brokers, truck drivers and warehouse workers. The company would create 75 new jobs with an average $64,000 salary.

The Port of Wilmington has amped up its cold storage offerings in recent years, following the opening of the Port of Wilmington Cold Storage, a public-private partnership, in 2016.

The N.C. State Ports Authority is in the midst of planning for an expansion of its own refrigerated container yard, with the construction of 700 plugs planned this spring. In August, NCSPA approved a 30-year lease with Cold Summit Development, which plans to install a 280,000 square foot facility on port property. Other cold storage warehouse projects are in the planning stages elsewhere in the region.

The ports authority’s leadership has been “vital and integral” in the discussions with the company over the last couple of years, Satterfield said. 

Three expansions

Satterfield said “Project Transit,” which calls for adding at least 300 new jobs, was similar to the recent incentive package awarded to Vantaca in September. In that deal, Vantaca, a technology company that works with community association management companies, was awarded a nearly $5 million total package (including state dollars) to double its workforce. 

Project Transit represents a “well-established company” with hundreds of employees at a “class-A corporate operation,” Satterfield said. Many of the new roles will be sales positions, with many opportunities for local recent college graduates he said. “They hire on attitude and aptitude … it’s a great work environment.”

“Project Clear” represents an existing business with “decades of proof of excellence,” Satterfield said, adding that the company has given hundreds of millions of dollars back to the community as a “vital employer” for the county and region. This project would add 485 jobs at an average $131,000 salary and invest $85.2 million.

The company is considering spending its capital in other areas of the country – three states in particular. “Incumbent labor, licensing, safety and knowledge of this current facility plays well in our favor,” Satterfield said. “We want it done here.”

Finally, “Project Buckeye” is a well-known financial technology firm in the region with over 500 employees, Satterfield said. The hiring of the 204 employees with an average salary of $113,000 could begin this year, he said.

According to the Greater Wilmington Business Journal’s 2022 Book on Business, which ranks company size based on self-reported data, nCino (830 employees) and Live Oak Bank (625) meet this definition. nCino is in the midst of an expansion at its Wilmington headquarters in Mayfaire, which will introduce enough space to accommodate 600 new employees. 

In addressing why public money should be allotted to these companies, Zapple said Project Buckeye’s fintech roles are a good example. 

“Those jobs could go anywhere literally anywhere in the United States or frankly the world,” he said. “But they choose here and choose to keep that money here in our local economy.”

Combined, the four projects would bring $125 million in capital and $110 in payroll investments to the area, according to Satterfield. Any revisions of the companies’ stated plans would necessitate a revision in incentive amounts awarded to each based on a legal review. 

Each package covers a five-year disbursement period and won’t be dispersed until certain performance parameters are met. 

View a rundown of each below, according to public documents: 
 

Project  

  Local incentives  

  Min. new jobs  

  Avg. salary  

  Property investment

Transit

  $500,000

  300

  $62,000

 

Clear

  $1,500,000

  485

  $131,000

  $85,200,000

Buckeye

  $500,000

  204

  $113,000

  $25,000,000

Speed

  $112,500

  75

  $64,000

  $16,000,000

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