WILMINGTON -- At the end of Shipyard Boulevard lies the port of Wilmington. The name of the road is a reminder of what was in the port's place during World War II. Historian Wilbur Jones said, "In 1941 the local shipyard began building liberty ships, which were very slow cargo ships for the merchant marine and the maritime association." Two-hundred-forty-three ships in all came out of the shipyard over the five years it existed. Twenty-six were lost during the war. "Our local shipyard received an award from the maritime commission for the speed and efficiency of which the ships were being built," Jones said. The shipyard shut down after world war two and the state port opened in that location soon after, where it has been growing ever since. NC State Ports Authority CEO Tom Eagar said, "We are focused, we are committed, high energy, we are driven." Eagar has been in the industry for 40 years. He's dedicated to the port's number one responsibility: bringing in money to the state. Eagar said, "We have a tremendous opportunity here to really bring North Carolina into a position where it can effectively compete with these neighboring states for the type of foreign investment that drive jobs and economic development within this sate." There are 200 employees at the Wilmington port, Steve Jackson is one of them. He's been here 32 years and says while a lot has changed, there has been one constant: the employees' dedication. Jackson said, "Throughout the whole time the workers have had to adapt to the changing times and the new equipment and the new technology and the port has just been very stable." There's no mistaking the pride that comes with working here. Jackson said, "When we're compared to other ports we're a smaller port, but when you compare with the service that we give, most customers tell us hands down that Wilmington provides as good a service as anybody, if not better." Expanding local business and continuing successful international trade are just a few goals of the port of Wilmington. Eager hopes his leadership will take it far. "If we don't take risks we'll never see the type of growth, the type of opportunity that risk can generate," he said. The entire State Ports Authority brings in nearly $300 million tax dollars each year.
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