10/13/08 — Wayne industrial development not affected by downturn

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Wayne industrial development not affected by downturn

By Steve Herring
Published in News on October 13, 2008 1:46 PM

It is still too early to tell what, if any, effect the nation's financial crisis will have on Wayne County's industrial development efforts, says Joanna Thompson, president of the county Economic Development Alliance.

"Maybe it is fortunate for us, but the kind of projects, like the Triangle Spring (plant in Mount Olive) we just announced, that we get typically don't tend to be the projects that are most vulnerable to these economic downturns," she said.

"They tend to be more small- to mid-sized companies that have a close hold on their finances and they are conservative," she added. "We don't find ourselves dealing with these higher-leveraged type companies, which may be kind of good for us.

"Still, we have to be prudent with our dollars, too. That is why we may not go out and build a shell building right at this moment, but we are getting all of our ducks in a row so that we know all of the costs involved. Maybe we will just do the site prep first and then think about the building later."

The county has one shell building located in the Mount Olive Industrial Park. The asking price is $1.7 million for the 55,000-square-foot structure that can be expanded to twice that size.

"We always have a shell building in our portfolio," Ms. Thompson said. "We have already done some preliminary work on site prep cost, architectural design, and those things are on the way right now for our next shell building in the Goldsboro area."

No site has been selected, but it most likely, but not necessarily, would be at ParkEast on U.S. 70, she said.

"We try to keep prepared so when the shell building in Mount Olive sells we will have access to a loan and roll it back into another project," she said. "You always want to be showing some progress. The key is to show forward movement in your project development, and that is what we are trying to do."

Currently, there are five sites on the county/alliance industrial property inventory totaling 511 available acres owned or optioned by the alliance or county. Combined with the Mount Olive shell building, the properties have a combined potential value of about $11.9 million.

Also, there is $2.95 million in debt owed on land at ParkEast and the Mount Olive shell building.

The sites are:

*ParkEast, the Wayne County Industrial Park, on U.S. 70 east, 500 acres. The county owns 178 available acres (all site certified). The sale price is $40,000 per acre. (Another 223 available acres are privately owned.)

*Mount Olive Industrial Park, Old Mount Olive Highway, 145 acres. The county owns 80 available aces (25 are site certified). The alliance has another 35 acres under option. The sale price is $10,000 per acre.

*Mount Olive Northeast Church Road site, 55 acres. All of the property is owned by the alliance through its 2006 merger with the Mount Olive Committee of 100. The site is not certified, but initial engineering/geotechnical studies have been completed. The sale price is $10,000 per acre.

*Mount Olive U.S. 117 south site, 104 acres. The county has the property under option. Initial engineering/geotechnical studies have been ordered. The sale price is $9,000-$10,000 depending on the year it is sold.

*Arrington Bridge Road/ John Street site, 59 acres. The property is all owned by the alliance through its 2006 merger with the Goldsboro Committee of 100. The site is not certified, but initial engineering/geotechnical studies have been completed. The sale price is $6,000 per acre.

"If you look at what is missing from our inventory, I would say two things," Ms. Thompson said. "No. 1 is a large site, one tract of 300-500 acres, and No. 2, a site in the northern end of the county. But we are working on both of those.

"There definitely is a gap in the available property we have in the northern end of the county. We have been working on that for several months through our Northern Wayne Initiative, and I think we are coming close to some real possibilities."

Ms. Thompson said the new I-795 four-lane highway should prove a boost to development in northern Wayne.

"I think we are homing in on a few that have real potential," she said.

Ms. Thompson said the alliance also would like to acquire another large site in the county. She said Wayne County is competing with communities that have several sites of between 200-300 acres.

"There are some great sites (in the county), but they involve multiple property owners, but you might could chip away a little at a time," she said. "Normally when someone is looking at large acreage it is for something like a distribution site or large manufacturing center that wants to be located on an interstate.

"We don't get many projects that require that kind of acreage. We don't have the transportation network that demands that. We have (Interstate) 795 and that is good, but that is not the icing on the cake for everybody."

To enhance the sites, the alliance works to ensure they are certified -- a process that is recognized on the state and national level by clients and consultants.

"Basically it tells a client that a site is shovel ready, and by shovel ready what we mean is all the different tests have been done on the site like engineering tests, geotechnical tests, soil borings, drainage tests," Ms. Thompson said. "It's been looked at from an aerial perspective, has site maps, topographics have been checked for wetlands or 100-year flood plain line and 500-year flood plain line. It even goes through Cultural Resources to make sure there are no endangered species on the site.

"All of those things tell the client the site might look good on the surface, but you never know what you are dealing with when you peel away the grass or the corn or whatever is growing on that site. They know that a site is ready to go and that the permitting and zoning are in place."

Along with developing its own properties, the alliance works with existing industries. For example, the alliance is talking with the owners of the Hilex Poly building in Mount Olive. The company closed its doors last month, and the alliance is working with the owners to get information on the building so it can be marketed

"They are definitely open to a lease or purchase of that building," she said. "It has a rail spur. It is a great facility. I think that building will be a top contender for some projects coming up in the next several months. We will put it on local, state and regional Web sites. We have already had a few inquires on that building."

She added, "I think one thing that is very positive here is that you have had county and private involvement, and you have got to have both. We have got some (property) we have acquired or that is under option because of the private sector and some because the county has stepped up. That is the way you want it to be, and that is the way it should be."