09/26/10 — Companies aim to expand in Duplin County

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Companies aim to expand in Duplin County

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on September 26, 2010 1:50 AM

KENANSVILLE - Two Duplin County businesses may expand their operations, and a third is close to finishing construction of its own new facility.

Soybean product manufacturers Bunge North America and Whole Harvest and textile company Guilford Mills are three companies seeking to grow in 2010. Bunge North America is nearing completion of a soybean meal production facility in the Rose Hill area, scheduled to be operational by December of this year, Duplin Economic Development Director Heather Beard said.

Just over a year from the time the project was announced, the business will create about five jobs and has invested $14 million into the soybean meal transportation center, Ms. Beard said.

"Their plant is just about complete, they're expecting that to be finished in the October, November range," she said.

The new facility also includes a railway spur dedicated to the project. Ms. Beard is "sure some local folks participated" in constructing the operation and railroad spur.

Two other projects are also in the works, which have been made public but not yet finalized, are expansions for Guilford and Whole Harvest.

Guilford would create 65 new jobs for the county and invest about $6 million in the local area, and the county offered Guilford a 100 percent tax refund for the first ten years as an incentive to expand, Ms. Beard said.

"They have not yet decided whether they are going to move forward with the expansion here in Duplin County, but we did put the incentive on the table," she said.

The incentive also includes putting $115,000 of the total incentive amount toward providing a natural gas line for the company.

Guilford proposed to add new equipment lines for some of the different processes in the existing Kenansville facility. The gas line would be specifically for the company. Company officials have not yet decided whether to expand in the county or in another location.

The third project, based in Warsaw, is also still somewhat tenuous.

"The other project, we had slated to bring it to public hearing and the company chose not to go forward with tax incentive," Ms. Beard said.

Whole Harvest in Warsaw, undergoing an expansion, recently put an option on a piece of land next to the company's property for the expansion. The company has not confirmed whether the expansion will happen, but it is a good sign, Ms. Beard said.

"They're looking at ... six to 10 new jobs and they'll invest anywhere from $750,000 to a $1 million. That'll be in new equipment, possibly some additional warehouse space that they may construct and some additional rail," she said.

The company, formerly known as Carolina Soy, manufactures a trans-fat-free soybean oil. Whole Harvest has also not yet finalized the Duplin County expansion project.

Existing industry is extremely important to the economic development of the county, and the office works closely with local companies to provide support and encourage that development, Ms. Beard said.

"Typically 78 percent of your growth is going to come from our existing industries, and I believe that to be true. That's why we work really diligently with our existing industries," she said.

Duplin County is in a good position for business location because of its proximity to the port of Wilmington, proximity to military areas and to Raleigh as well, the director said. The Interstate 40 connection is a big attraction for a lot of companies, too, but the county does face challenges in bringing businesses to Duplin.

"Some challenges, or things to look at in the future is infrastructure, water, sewer, gas. While we have made some great stride in DC in those areas, we still have some work to do," Ms. Beard said.

The water connections are in good shape, but getting sewer and gas lines into certain parts of the county remain a major goal. Providing plenty of options for companies looking to purchase land is also important.

"You just want to make sure you have product to attract people to look at," she said.

Right now, the economy is "very tough" and many companies are "kicking tires, but we don't have a lot of people that are making decisions right now, so we're incredibly thankful for the people we do have," Ms. Beard said.