FIRST ON 3: Brunswick County eliminated from Caterpillar search last week; thousands of jobs to Georgia

Tags: , , , , , ,

Submitted: Sat, 02/18/2012 - 3:00am
Updated: Sun, 02/19/2012 - 2:14pm

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Caterpillar will not call southeastern North Carolina its new home. Brunswick County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Jim Bradshaw says Brunswick County was eliminated from the selection for a proposed manufacturing plant back on February 7, but officials chose to keep that decision quiet until now.

It was a promise of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars for our area, and once again folks in Brunswick and Columbus Counties say they feel let down.

“Being on the Brunswick and Columbus County line, it would have brought a lot of jobs into the area,” said Debbie Bracey, who lives in Columbus County. I just think it’s devastating.

Not keeping quiet is Athens, GA, which is where Caterpillar announced plans to build that plant today. Caterpillar expects to break ground this year with the plant opening in late 2013.

Caterpillar’s CEO says some two dozen states were vying for the plant.

“I’m not going to get into any specific details, but it was very competitive and very market-based,” Douglas Oberhelman said. “I mean, it’s just the way this thing goes in this day and age when you create 4,000 jobs. It’s very competitive, and it should be, because it’s a big deal for the state and a big deal for our company.”

The Caterpillar plant itself will produce 1,400 jobs. The company estimates another 2,800 jobs will be created throughout the US within businesses that support Caterpillar.

Again our area had high hopes for a blue chip manufacturing plant, and again those hopes are dashed. Caterpillar can move a lot of earth but they will not be moving here. This is the second large manufacturing plant we’ve lost out on in four months. So why is the Cape Fear not winning these big bids?

“The first one with Continental (Tire) is incentives, and this one was logistics,” Bradshaw said. “The Wilmington Port did not have a 50-foot channel, and at this time there are no plans for a 50-foot channel or a new logistics center as they requested.”

Caterpillar had said it wanted the plant close to its facility in Cary and to a port. The Brunswick County site would have made sense with just a 20-mile drive to the State Port of Wilmington. Instead the company picked Athens because of its access to the Port of Savannah, which is more than 200 miles away.

Despite another loss Bradshaw is not giving up.

“Six other projects are looking here now,” he said. “We anticipate picking up two or three more next month.”

Rep. Frank Iler (R-17th District) is disappointed. He says North Carolina needs to be more competitive.

“We should have gotten them,” Iler said. “You should start out by looking at how we are doing business compared to other states.”

Bob Warwick with the Coalition for Economic Advancement agrees.

“There are several reasons I think we lost that project,” he said, “number one being that North Carolina’s incentive program is not as flexible as in georgia or South Carolina.”

We talked to Bradshaw about the possibility of the plant coming here last week, two days after he admits he knew the plant would not building in Brunswick County. He says a consultant asked him to keep it confidential. Bradshaw says he’s working with that same consultant on the other projects to bring jobs here.

For those with no job, losing Caterpillar means losing hope.

“People losing their homes, losing their vehicles and I feel like if the company could have come to the community, that would have given a lot of people a chance to regroup and get their finances in order and be able to survive during this economy,” Bracey said.


  • MexLex says:

    Folks, I am glad the plant ain’t coming and all those greedy little real estate brokers are out of luck. The future of this area is not a new port or low-end manufacturing. I am a local and I like the retirees — they create a bigger and more profitable service base than sweat shops.

  • Guest555 says:

    It’s not that people in this county are uneducated and can not get a job, the fact is the families that run the businesses that hire only their own and their friends that leave everyone out. Yes, their are mexicans working and that is the only other kind of employee they want. We have so many small businesses here that no one can get a job because like I said they hire their own people and their friends. It sucks that we shop at these operations, oh yeah, support them? they don’t support us. If you don’t believe me look into the owners hummmmm.
    Brunswick county is so back woods and corrupt with the commissioners (who don’t pay their taxes) and their businesses they own this county will never be any good.

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    Until I-74 and I-140 are finished in their entirety, we will be unable to attract large industrial manufacturing to Brunswick or Columbus Counties. There are far too many two-lane roads that are key ingress and egress points but can be shut down in a minute when a serious wreck or other problem arises. NC 87, 211, US 421, and US 701 are principal North-South routes and all four are inadequate.

    If you specifically look at the Northern Brunswick and Columbus County corridor, your only adequate road is US74/76, but it only offers quick access to I-95 North. If you want to go South, you’re back on a two-lane road. Go East to I-40 and you hit the logjam of Wilmington traffic. When the Memorial Bridge opens, it backs up traffic well past the US 421/I-140 cutoff. When you see a semi stuck in traffic, that smoke coming out the stack is money burning.

    No one is going to build a plant here until we have an adequate, UN-INTERRUPTABLE road system that affords inbound and outboud shipments rapid access from and to I-95 and I-40.

    As far as rail traffic, no one is going to build here with the HOPE that a rail spur can be built to the plant in our lifetime! In addition to being a very tax-unfriendly state, we are also becoming a nightmare to deal with relative to environmental requirements. Anyone who has tried to build anything in a wetland knows how long approval takes and what it costs in compensatory offsets if ordered. If I was building a plant and had to face the EPA and NC-DNR, I’d be looking elsewhere too!

    So we’re dealing with a chicken and egg, Catch 22 situation. No business, in part, because of lousy roads. No reason to build better roads unless we have some business to justify it and help pay for it. If you look at the locations chosen by both Continental and Caterpillar, however, the Interstate access was far superior to what we offer, and rail access was already present at one and guaranteed to be a rapid proposition at the other.

    However, building better roads is something that we will have to face eventually. If you sincerely want to bring business along the 74/76 corridor, the three most important things we could do right now, in order of importance would be:

    * Finish I-74 West from Wilmington to I-95 near Lumberton
    * Finish I-140 to I-74 (Currently US 74)
    * Make US 701 four-lane from Tabor City to I-40 near Newton Grove

    …and if you’re serious about a port in Southport….

    * Make NC 211 four-lane from Southport to I-95.

    Until we get these road projects completed, they’re ALWAYS going to choose locations that are logistically better.

  • Guest159 says:

    Georgia has Caterpillar. SC has Continental Tire. NC has “Megaport opponents from Southport…pleased Friday after a consultant recommended the state focus on its Wilmington port for future container traffic growth” according to the Star News Friday, February 17, 2012.

    It appears that without a port comparable to other Southern states Southeastern NC cannot compete for meaningful manufacturing jobs. There is limited room to expand the Wilmington port. And if it could be adequately expanded there is 20+ miles of rock that is 40 feet below the Cape Fear river high tide mark that is simply too difficult to remove in order to provide the necessary draft for the container ship used today. More than one jumbo dredge has been demolished trying to deepen the river bed. Just ask American Dredging Company.

    Other parts of NC seem to receive the incentives needed to attach new jobs. Why not our area? And, exactly what did that “special committee” consider in their “cost-benefit” analysis? I find it difficult to comprehend that there would not be a positive domino effect from a new port closer to the mouth of the Cape Fear for the people of NC far beyond the southeastern region. Also, there is no reason that our technical schools cannot develop programs producing applicants meeting any employer requirement.

    The NC Legislature needs to understand that there are voters in this part of the state that expect jobs beyond the service and film industries. The legislature should know that we want our children to have gainful employment opportunities with benefits and a sustainable future; not just waiting tables and cleaning toilets for carpetbaggers and tourist.

    Perhaps our governor should hire SCDOT or the Georgia Ports Authority to develop our transportation and manufacturing opportunities!

  • RSimmons says:

    In hindsight and after being smacked around by my wife and some friends who saw the “Rant” on TV. Much of what I wrote I based on 20 years experience through my employer who often laments that he regularly has to recruit personnel from the Triangle or Charlotte area and beyond to fill skilled and/or technical positions. Perhaps the shallow labor pool for manufacturing reflects the shallow job market for manufacturing jobs.

    I agree that CFCC is a great school and has come very far in a short time. But that knowledge isn’t staying here. It is going elsewhere for opportunity.

    I don’t agree about tax relief, a lot of companies do business in this state and more are moving here. Our corporate taxes are .9% higher than Georgia. But our workmanscomp and property taxes are much lower than Georgia. I’m not seeing us at a huge disadvantage in that respect. Georgia has a significantly higher debt load as percentage of GSP than North Carolina. Giving tax breaks and incentives come at a cost.

    I do agree about infrastructure. Very poor in this region much of that is due to neglect by the state and some is just geographical.

    Wilmington is still a beach town on a dead end road. I’m not a native,I’m from the middle of the state. I have been in and out of this area all my life and it never was an area of large scale manufacturing to begin with. Forestry, boat/ship building, ports services,agriculture and military support has been the anchor industries.

    Wilmington has marketed itself as a retirement town and that is our growth industry. People from new england,upper midwest or where ever are making a significant investment of their financial resources here. Like Caterpillar or Titan they expect a return on their investment. They don’t want industries like Titan here,I can’t say that I blame them.

  • gytree says:

    Since the Brunswick location is closer to the Georgia ports than Athens, GA, the difference was workforce training according to the online story in the Star News. Brunswick CC is tiny compared to Athens Technical College and I am told Brunswick EDC never took Caterpillar over to Cape Fear Community College which is a lot bigger than the Athens school. We lose again.

  • gytree says:

    Star News online reports Caterpillar says workforce training made the difference. Rep. Iler says Cat talked to Brunswick CC and that Cat will now be getting training from Athens Techical College. ATC is much larger than BCC, but ATC is smaller than CFCC. Did Brunswick EDC ever contact CFCC about helping train for Caterpillar? Bet not; we lose again.

  • wade Griffis says:

    It was not Al Capone who said that. It was Willy Sutton. We old farts need to keep our stories straight.

  • Guest4545 says:

    It was Willie Sutton.

  • AllenG says:

    Yeah, or the wrong planet.

  • taxpayer says:

    was asked why he robbed banks. “That’s where the money is”

  • AllenG says:

    The fact that they declined the incentives is irrelevant. The fact is that our shady commissioners made a back room deal, offered them 4 million bucks in tax incentives and set the rest of us up to try and clean up the mess after they were all gone. As for the fact that we have the right materials for their business, I get it, but it doesn’t mean it should be built— here or elsewhere. I think we need less cement and less coal fired power plants and if that means less growth, I’m ok with that too.

  • Justin America says:

    “I think we need less cement and less coal fired power plants and if that means less growth, I’m ok with that too.” < You are in the wrong Country

  • Guest959 says:

    Other areas receive incentives needed to attract new jobs. Why not us? Exactly what did that “special committee” consider in their cost-benefit analysis? And, there is no reason that our technical schools cannot develop programs producing applicants that meet any employer needs.

    The NC Legislature needs to understand that there are voters in this part of the state that expect jobs beyond the service and film industries. We want our children to have gainful employment opportunities with benefits and a sustainable future; not just waiting tables and cleaning toilets for carpetbaggers and tourist. Build the new port.

    Should Perdue hire SCDOT or GA Ports Authority to secure our transportation and manufacturing opportunities?

  • Observer says:

    If I was looking at Brunswick County, and had knowledge about the anti-business, pro golf/turtle watching/rich, gated retiree attitudes, I’d beat a path elsewhere. Jobs, growth, economic development…no way.

    Our (primarily) northeastern born and bred “superior minds” and asset-rich residents in residence have in effect reinstituted the Old South plantation mentality here. Economic racism is alive and well in Brunswick County.

    These self-appointed saviors living in the Forbidden City (St. James) and in other exclusive communities are a pathetic group of myopic, self-centered brats.

  • The Realist says:

    As long as the “anti” minority are allowed to control things, grouth will be stagnant. The Stop Catapillar, Stop Martin Marietta, Stop Titan and the Stop the Port people don’t need jobs, school, or roads. They have their little part of the world and the rest of us can go some where else.

  • Getsome says:

    I am a business owner, 3 to be infact, with my home base here in coastal NC. We will always loose to SC and Ga. The area has become anti business by the retiree population and the small vocal liberal groups. Our taxes are higher and our enviourmental restrictions are even worse. My SC division does much better than my NC divisions, due to over head and restrictive local, state government. I am all for clean water and saving the earth, just with more common sense. This is a great palce to live but if we allow those who are retired to restrict our growth we will be doomed to nursing homes and mediacal practices instead of industry.

  • AllenG says:

    I’ll take nursing homes and medical practices if the alternative is heavy industry like cement plants. Perhaps the retirees are vocal because their coming from places in the NE where they’ve seen what lower environmental restrictions look like. You should live in China. They have a booming economy, almost no environmental restrictions and on days when the smog isn’t too thick, they can go outside without their masks on.

    And by the way, don’t worry about the earth— the earth will be just fine when we’re all gone. It’s the people you have to worry about. Your children and grandchildren will inherit the place you leave them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think all of us who line up at the new Lowes or build houses with more space than we could ever need are all hypocrites when we complain about “the environment problem”, but I don’t think not wanting heavy industry in our area makes us anti-business– or even liberal for that matter!

    As for taxes, we can probably agree on that.

  • Guest461 says:

    …I would say that you dont’t have a clue as to what you’re talking about. You don’t have a clue as to what the jobs for Caterpillar would pay and I seriously doubt you have a clue about the educational demographics of this area relative to a manufacturing environment. There are plenty of skilled and hard working people in this area. The biggest problem with that is that those jobs are being given to illegal aliens for pennies on the dollar. Caterpillar’s factory would employ significant staffs of management, engineers and technicians as well as line workers. Your $12/hr “guesstimate” of pay-rate is faulted and without basis.

    Before you go spouting off nonsense statistics about “educated workforce” and “skills” as utilized in manufacturing, I would recommend that you proofread you own posts to rid them of obvious errors just to lend yourself a “hint” of credence.

  • RSimmons says:

    One of the reasons stated is port access. Really? Athens Ga is 225 highway miles from Port of Savannah and about 250 rail miles. By comparison Port of Charleston ( a deep water port like Savannah) is 175 miles by highway and 185 miles by rail from Leland. Georgia is just willing to give away more millions of their taxpayer dollars to locate Caterpillar there for 1400 $12 an hour jobs.

    Putting incentives aside,If I were locating a factory like Caterpillar’s I would be looking at Athens and Atlanta because that area can provide a larger and better educated labor pool to draw from. I love this area but for manufacturing we have a poorly educated and poorly skilled work force to work with

  • px4storm says:

    I take exception to your comment about the work force in the Cape Fear region, you made the general blanket statement that it is a poorly educated and poorly skilled work force. I spent almost 30 years in the industrial work force, and yes I ran across a few dummies, but by and large the Cape Fear region can provide a highly educated and skilled work force, we suffer now because many of our younger people have left the area to find employment.
    We have in Cape Fear Community College a great training and educational school, and CFCC produces some very well educated and trained and highly skilled workers.
    The real issue is multi-layered, first the state will not provide tax relief to businesses, (we will make up for in income and sales and property taxes), second we suffer a transportation problem because the roads and rails to our area have been neglected for years, thirdly we now have a large population of people who do not want to see any type of manufacturing in the area, because they want to maintain their retirement life, therefore we have a very bad public image.
    I would not be surprise to Titan Cement tell the Cape Fear area bye also.

  • Jon says:

    If this rumor is true it would not surprise me one bit. Southeastern NC needs jobs but state and local officials really don’t care. Columbus county is in desperate need of good paying jobs, not more retail or fast food jobs. When you have an area that has been in poverty since the 1970s, community leaders need to go above the normal incentives to get new jobs in the area. Of course it doesn’t help that Dewey Hill’s pockets have to be filled before a company can move into Whiteville/Columbus county.

  • DontForgetBladen says:

    Trust me, Bladen County is no better. We have a by-pass in our county seat that is several miles long and our folks won’t allow it to be developed because the town council has personal business interests in downtown. Meanwhile we waste millions on revitalizing downtown Elizabethtown to “keep business in Bladen.” Sure, it’s pretty, but really…the attitude is that of letting the rest of the county DIE in the name of keeping the downtown merchants’ wallets fat. I wouldn’t want to locate a major manufacturing operation anywhere near here either.

  • AllenG says:

    In SE NC, if you really want some incentives you need to build a cement plant! This will get you a promise of about 4 million bucks in return for only about 50 jobs. And of course in Wilmington, if you tell the mayor there’s a convention center or baseball involved, they’ll gladly renege on campaign promises and throw money at you!

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday says:

    Titan declined the incentives and the only reason they want to locate here is because it’s where the limestone is. You mine coal over coal beds and you build cement kilns next to limestone.

  • Mike T says:

    It was announced yesterday that Rato Power LTD would bring 1,000 jobs to Lincoln County NC. Rato builds engines, generators, and ATV products. Last week 2,000 jobs were announced in Greensboro and High Point. I guess North Carolina looks good to some companies in areas other than Wilmington. Maybe the negative attitude we project has something to do with that.

  • John A. Difloure says:

    With the 3rd highest gasoline tax in the country and the high corporate tax, North Carolina would be my last choice for establishing a business.

  • nogrowth says:

    Here we go again . . . more jobs going elsewhere because our leaders couldn’t or wouldn’t get their act together to make a worthwhile offer to this company to locate here. I guess when companies stop shopping North Carolina all together, then maybe we will see a need to offer TRUE incentives.

  • Guest25879 says:

    talking about and I’ll go you one better: their response was mostly rhetoric. The whole “poorly educated and poorly skilled work force” bit dates the writer to the point I have to wonder if they still wear Member’s Only jackets. Sure there are people here who can’t check the oil in their car but one can’t categorize hundreds of thousands of people based on a few. Education alone – Wilmington, as the not-so-joke goes, has one of the best educated wait staffs you can find. CFCC, and at least three other community colleges within roughly one hour’s drive, can supply highly skilled workers. The high schools alone do a decent job of offering electives in electronics and auto mechanics among others.

    The OP, like many others, thinks they are the first person to move here. You do not even have to rely solely on the local talent pool in an area such as Wilmington. Have you ever seen the stacks of resumes that come in for even entry level jobs here? It’s quite shocking the things people are willing to give up to relocate to Wilmington. That’s one of the reasons it’s tough to find gainful employment here when one is early in their career. When you apply for a job that requires a four year degree and one to two years experience, you’re competing against candidates with graduates degrees and ten+ years of experience in many cases.

  • RSimmons says:

    From today’s Wall Street Journal:

    “Caterpillar will receive incentives totaling more than $75 million from Georgia and two of its counties, Athens-Clarke and Oconee, state and local officials said. The plant will be built on a 265-acre plot straddling those two counties. The counties agreed to provide the land as well as property tax relief and new roads, sewers and water lines. The state is providing tax credits and grants to help train workers, among other things.

    Caterpillar said it hadn’t yet determined wage levels for the Athens plant, but the company recently has been offering workers at a train-locomotive plant in Muncie, Ind., starting pay of between $12 and $18.50 an hour, plus medical and dental benefits and a retirement-savings plan.”

    That plant in Muncie IN is replacing one in London,Ontario,Canada that was closed because employees there would not accept a 50% pay cut. Caterpillar enjoyed record profits last year and expects revenue increases as high as 38% for 2012

    Feel free to fact check me

  • Guest111 says:

    Who wants to move to an area that has two county commissioner groups who are feuding, not to mention the nuts that are in the groups? There’s also the city directors with a mayor who does what they want with the public yelling at the top of their lungs that they don’t want it. Aren’t you shocked at the control the city is trying to take of EVERYTHING they can? Aren’t you surprised at the parking fees in the downtown area that they are trying to promote? Don’t you think CAT people do research on the area? Don’t you think they can smell trouble in a city / county just as easily as the locals do? I would NEVER move such an operation to this area. It’s a hot spot ready to boil over. There’s so much negative vibes from here it would honestly have raised my eyebrows in amazement if they moved to our area.

Leave a Reply