Two Brunswick County industry sites certified to draw business

-A A +A
By Brian Slattery

New industry isn’t on the way to Brunswick County yet, but two companies are bringing attention to the area.

CSX Transportation and Duke Power each announced last week they are promoting Brunswick County industrial sites.

Clark Robertson, assistant vice president of regional development for CSX, announced a 1,100-acre industrial site about a mile from the Brunswick-Columbus County line earned the CSX Select Site designation.

Select Sites are designated locations along the CSX rail network that can be developed rapidly because land-use issues have been addressed. The one in Brunswick County is the 12th to be certified among hundreds of sites in the 23 states CSX covers.

Robertson created the Select Sites designation three years ago in a discussion about what industrial sites need in a tough economic climate.

“What became clear to me was nothing could be left to chance,” Robertson said during the Thursday, Sept. 12, announcement. “If we were going to eliminate all chance, we had to be prepared — have all the documentation done ahead of time. I realized we needed to pre-position the sites.”

Jim Van Derzee, manager of industrial development for CSX Transportation, said the industrial site selection often becomes a site elimination process, which led CSX to partner with Austin Consulting to work on making the certified sites the best ones available for development.

The Brunswick site has power available and water and sewer connections close by, said Jonathan Gemmen, senior location consultant for Austin Consulting. It also is train adjacent, meaning CSX will not have to cut new lines because they are established and nearby.

Part of the certification process makes certain these needs are met, he said. The process also ensures zoning, wetlands, soil, endangered species and archaeological concerns are addressed to avoid problems with developing the property.

Gemmen said a big training room, like the one on the first floor of the Leland BCC building, is another benefit, allowing an industry to start training employees once it decides to move onto the certified site.

“That proves the community is ready to go,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s a particular client around the corner, but it is ready for clients.”

Brunswick County Economic Development Executive Director Jim Bradshaw said the site has other advantages, too: It is 18 miles from the Port of Wilmington and sits on a four-lane road.

Continental Tire and Caterpillar at one time considered the site chosen for development.

Paul Scott, who represents the five landowners of the Selected Site, described the designation as “impactful.”

“When CSX talks, people listen,” he said.

Scott said the marketing of the site by CSX would reach a lot of industries and customers, which is a tremendous benefit for the site.

“Brunswick County EDC, the state (EDC) and now CSX will market it as a commercial site,” he said.

Commissioner Frank Williams, who attended the announcement event, hopes to see an industry drawn to the site by its certification status as well as the attributes of Brunswick County and the surrounding area.

“The CSX selection site, plus I-140, plus the future I-74/76 corridor, plus the port, plus the lower tax rate equals a great site for industry,” he said.


Duke Energy Progress

Duke Energy Progress has chosen a 220-acre tract along the Cape Fear River in Navassa for its 2013 Site Readiness Program. The program helps communities served by the utility compete for new investments and jobs.

“The Navassa site is a clear standout,” John Nelms, Duke Energy’s economic development manager for Brunswick County, said in the Sept. 12 announcement. “Unlike most undeveloped sites we typically see, location is its strength. Not only does it have rail and water barge access on site, the Port of Wilmington is just 10 miles away.

“With the comprehensive assessment offered by our Site Readiness Program … this location will be quite attractive to the right industry.”

Duke Energy hired consulting firm McCallum Sweeney to conduct the Navassa site study.

Now, Duke Energy will work with professional land-use planners to develop conceptual plans for the site. The planners will present all recommendations to community leaders in November.

Once the recommendations are made, Duke Energy’s Business Development Team will market the site nationwide to companies looking to expand or relocate their operations.

“We have tremendous workforce training assets in this area, which is a major advantage for companies looking for highly qualified workers. That makes the Navassa site particularly valuable,” Bradshaw said. “However, until it was chosen for the Duke Energy Site Readiness Program, we did not have the resources to complete the due diligence required to market the site.”

Duke Energy’s Site Readiness Program seeks properties 75 acres or larger, served by the utility, which are suited for a single, large industrial facility or a potential multi-tenant industrial park. The Brunswick County site was one of 10 North Carolina sites chosen for the program.

In addition to the CSX and Duke Energy Progress sites, Bradshaw touted a 1,100-acre site across I-74/76, which is being marketed by the nonprofit Brunswick/Columbus International Park, as ready to welcome more industry to the county.

“Brunswick County has got its act together,” he said.


Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.