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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.

Comment on this Story

  • Commonsensenotcommontoday

    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.

  • Guest555

    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.

  • MexLex

    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.

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