07/28/14 — Industry could be coming to county

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Industry could be coming to county

By Steve Herring
Published in News on July 28, 2014 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive town officials last week hinted that a potential new industry with ties to the military is interested in locating in the Mount Olive Industrial Park.

No details concerning the industry's identity were revealed during a meeting of the Mount Olive Airport Committee on Wednesday. But members suggested that the news and tying county funding of the airport to economic development could help ensure that the funding continues.

Town Manager Charles Brown said he could not say much, but that there is a prospective tenant interested in the industrial park that would be dependent on having cargo flown in to the airport and then flown back out once processed.

"One of the reasons they are looking here is because of the proximity of the industrial park, and the shell building in particular, to that airport," Brown said.

The company has exclusive rights on a patented process, he said.

"One reason they are looking at North Carolina is because it (the product) has a military use, and because of contracts and contacts with Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point and Seymour Johnson and Fort Bragg," he said.

Brown said he could not be any more specific or provide more details.

The industrial park is located just north of town on the Old Mount Olive Highway. The airport is located across the highway within eyesight of the industrial park.

The potential new industry and airport funding surfaced during a discussion of a tentative agreement between the town and Wayne County concerning the county's decision to surrender its portion of ownership of the airport to the town.

Mayor Ray McDonald Sr., town Commissioner Joe Scott and Brown met recently with Wayne County Commissioner Ray Mayo and County Manager George Wood to discuss the airport.

"It came as a shock to some of the new commissioners that they actually own half of the Mount Olive Airport," Brown said. "They have been anxious to relinquish their ownership.

"I don't know that anybody has an issue with that. What we have asked them to do, we will accept it as long as they give us a written agreement to continue to fund that airport to the tune of at least $33,281 a year going forward."

As long as the town has the county's financial commitment, the change in ownership could be a good thing, he said.

The acceptance, in return for that agreement, will be on the town board's Aug. 4 agenda, he said.

"To me on the positive side of it, it gives us complete control to do what we want to do," Scott said. "We don't have to keep asking them this and that.

"The other thing is with our potential growth in the industrial park, and we should be hearing something in the near future, we are full in our hangar space. We don't have any hangar space out there."

Scott suggested that the next project to tackle after the town completes resurfacing of the runway is to build more hangars.

Brown, Scott and committee members noted that the airport is the only one in the county located just across a road from an industrial park and empty shell building.

Since the airport is an important part of the county's economic development efforts, it might make more sense for future county funding to be through the Wayne County Development Alliance, they said.

Committee member George Futrelle, who is also manager of the Duplin County Airport, asked if the county's current contribution was tied to specific things.

No, the county has funded the airport at the same level for several years, Brown said.

Tying the money to the industrial park and economic development appears to be an easy way for the county to continue to fund the airport, he said.

Scott said that Wood had had told them the funding would not go any lower, but it was possible it could go higher.

"Now you have got to understand these commissioners have a four-year term," Scott said. "After that four-year term, or whoever is on, that means we would have to go back to them and remind them or whoever is in charge that they made that obligation to us.

"But at that same time it gives us that opportunity to be independent to do what we need to do. They say they are going to support us."

Futrelle said he thinks it would be good if the money was somehow tied to some kind of economic incentive. It would also make such contributions politically easier, he said.

Brown said he and Scott had talked about that and having the money come through the Development Alliance.

"It would be far less difficult to keep that revenue stream flowing," Brown said.

The town puts in $40,000 each year and requests the same from the county, but gets the $33,281, he said.