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.