Private investment leads industrial development

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Private investment leads industrial development

Wilson’s availability of small industrial buildings is getting a boost from private investment thanks to a new partnership.

Wilson’s availability of small industrial buildings is getting a boost from private investment thanks to a new partnership.

Davis Miller, the CEO of Tobacco Rag Processors, recently purchased the seven remaining lots at Hackney Industrial Park with the plan to construct shell buildings for industrial companies looking for between 20,000 and 50,000 square feet of space. Wilson County Properties, the nonprofit development side of the Wilson Economic Development Council, sold the lots to Davis, who is planning the project as a private investor outside of his role in the world of tobacco.

“We have seen a significant increase in prospect inquiries for smaller buildings,” said Chris Williford, chairman of the board for Wilson County Properties. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to match these inquiries with suitable buildings. This partnership enables us to provide attractive, affordable facilities to the small and medium-sized industries — industries that we know will grow and flourish in Wilson.”

Development council Executive Director Jennifer Lantz said the park, which was Wilson’s second industrial park, has one vacancy among the existing buildings on Old Statonsburg Road near U.S. 264 and Interstate 795. Construction will begin this summer on a 25,000-square-foot shell building with the rest of the buildings completed in the next three to five years.

“We are excited to move forward with the construction of much needed small to mid-size industrial space in Wilson,” said Miller. “We will be able to offer leases, lease purchases or sales for companies needing our space. It has taken a real collaborative effort by our team and Jennifer Lantz with Wilson County Properties to get to this point and now be able to make this project a reality.”

Chris Hill of Hill Building Contractors said the buildings will not include the floors, lighting and so forth to allow companies to customize the space to its needs.

“We’re thrilled (Miller) is willing to tackle this. He is taking a lot of risk,” Lantz told members of the development council at a Tuesday meeting. “… We want to see some small industries — local or new to Wilson — locate there because small industries grow faster than big industries do.”

More Jobless than Pre-recession

Despite widespread recovery from the recession, Wilson is among nine counties in eastern North Carolina where unemployment rates continue to be higher than pre-recession levels. According to the N.C. Justice Center, Wilson’s unemployment rate in April of 7.5 percent is 1.6 percent higher than in December 2007.

“The epicenter of North Carolina’s recovery seems to run along interstates 40 and 85, but it has bypassed the state’s 95 corridor,” said William Munn, policy analyst for the N.C. Justice Center Budget and Tax Center. “In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a robust state and federal investment oriented towards employing local residents and contracting with local businesses could go a long way to driving improvements in eastern N.C. and for the state as a whole.”

Twenty counties throughout the region are a percentage point or more higher than the state’s unemployment average of 4.3 percent. Rates for April show that Wilson and nearby neighbors have all seen recent increases since March in unemployment rankings: Wayne County moved from No. 64 to No. 71 out of 100 counties while Nash County moved from No. 84 to No. 91, Wilson County moved from No. 93 to No. 96 and Edgecombe County moved from No. 96 to No. 98.

In fact, officials with the N.C. Department of Commerce touted reductions in 97 of the state’s counties in April from March, but local communities saw the increased rates. Wilson County went from 7.1 percent in March to 7.5 percent in April while Nash County went from 6.1 percent to 6.3 percent and Edgecombe County went from 7.7 percent to 7.9 percent.

This is a persistent issue that is admittedly frustrating and disappointing, and an unfortunate consequence of several factors specific to our region,” said Wilson Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Simons. “However, it’s important to not view these statistics in isolation, but in a larger context. So many things are trending positively for our community, including unemployment, if viewed over a longer time horizon.”

By Brie Handgraaf
The Wilson Times
Monday, June 12, 2017