MOUNT OLIVE -- A company that had promised 88 new jobs and a $20 million investment over a five-year period has instead decided not to come to Wayne County.
What drove that reversal is somewhat of a matter of speculation -- officials with the China-Japan joint venture U-Play Corp. are not returning phone calls from the Wayne County Development Alliance.
What the county has learned is second and third-hand from the broker that had been handling the sale of the former Helix-Poly/Sonoco building in Mount Olive that would have housed the company.
It would have been the first U.S. facility for U-Play that specializes in the contract manufacturing of disposable sanitary products such as adult incontinence products, wet wipes and puppy training pads.
The company had been approved for both state and county incentives.
It has not and will not receive any of the money since both are performance based, Development Alliance President Crystal Gettys said.
Mrs. Gettys said she was initially contacted by the company last summer.
Company officials told her they had found a facility, the former Helix-Poly/Sonoco building, that would meet their needs for a U.S. location for their product.
"At that point they had pretty much decided they liked the building, and they were including me wanting to know what were the next steps in getting local and state incentives," she said.
They told her the company was still looking at other states so it needed to find out what its financial situation would be in each state before proceeding.
Mrs. Gettys said that is when she got involved and got the state Department of Commerce involved, too, concerning possible incentives.
The company entered a contract with the broker for the building and began the due diligence process so that it could do its studies, she said.
The building is owned by a private company so the county was not involved in those negotiations, Mrs. Gettys said.
The building currently has a tenant that is in the process of removing materials and equipment.
Dec. 1 was the effective start date of the project for construction/upgrade of the building and the installation of equipment and machinery.
U-Play was to have taken ownership around January.
"I get word right before Christmas that there are some new partners possibly within the new company," she said. "They have taken a look at the building and have decided they are not so sure that the building will work for their needs and future needs.
"So they wanted to go ahead and expand and continue their search on the building. It was toward the end of their due diligence, right before it ended, they withdrew their offer on the building. They continued their search in North Carolina."
Mrs. Gettys said she also believes the company possibly was looking in South Carolina and Virginia.
It is just a situation where "other players" came into the picture, Mrs. Gettys said.
'There were a lot of deals outside of our organization that we just did not have control of, or were not privy to a lot of the meetings," she said.
"I have reached out to the company multiple times to ask if I can assist with other potential properties or buildings in our location or what can we do to try to resolve any issues. I have gotten no feedback from the company directly."
Founded in 2006, the publicly held company is based in China's Anhui Province and employs a total workforce of 310. Its products are exported to 40 countries.
U-Play Corp. had planned to hire management, craftsmen and sales staff. The company's annual payroll impact would have more than $2.75 million to the local economy.
The building is located at 3624 Old Mount Olive Highway just north of town and near its industrial park and airport.