Pender County Business Park Attracts Domestic and Foreign Tenants
After a vitamin maker packed up, Pender County officials saw economic development for a business park.
Now, County Director Chad McEwen and officials are not planning to slow down.
The idea began when the old BASF / Tadeka factory closed, leaving the option for Pender officials to purchase the property for the redevelopment of a 330-acre industrial park. In the late 2000s, the plan was put in place to have sites ready to be shoveled. About six companies use the space and employ more than 700 people.
âWe have properties under contract right now to dramatically increase those numbers,â McEwen said. “These industries pay a lot of people and they pay a lot of taxes.”
A water and sewer plant is also in the area and is a benefit to businesses and serves the entire county. McEwen said the county is exploring options to expand the park, which runs along part of the Pender County / New Hanover County border, by working with US Corridor 421 landowners.
âThe challenge now is that we are out of space,â McEwen said. âThe model we created 10 to 15 years ago has worked and has been a huge driver of economic development and a tool for improvement for the county. Its success forced us to look further down this corridor for more available space. We are actively working on it.
Knocking on Pender’s Door
In 2013, Acme Smoked Fish was the first tenant. The Brooklyn, NY-based company specializing in manufacturing seafood, employs approximately 300 people in its 100-square-foot facility.
Felipe Espinosa, director of manufacturing, said the park is a logistically convenient location due to Highway 421.
âWe get our raw materials from the Port of Wilmington, so the transportation from the port is very efficient,â Espinosa said.
Other companies followed – Empire Distributors, a wine and beer producer (109 employees); FedEx Freight, a distribution center (30 employees); and Colony Tire (15 employees), using the fleet as a warehouse and distribution facility.
Coastal Beverage, a distributor of beer, wine and soft drinks, employs more than 200 people.
The old facility had been located in Wilmington on Harley Road since 1976. The business has undergone several expansions and continued to grow. Looking at the options several years ago, they realized there were limits in Wilmington when they could only add 30,000 square feet.
“It would have been a short-term strategic decision,” said Tee Nunnelee, president of the Coastal Beverage Company. âWe felt we had to move forward and knowing how our business was operating and where the industry was heading, we were going to need over 30,000 square feet to grow. “
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With the help of brokers, Nunnelee searched for a year and finally arrived at the business park in 2019. A new warehouse was developed which allowed the business to meet their current demands, while also providing them with plenty of space to develop in the future.
Nunnelee said it was a great decision.
âPender County couldn’t have been better or easier to work with,â he said. âThey really treated us with open arms. “
Wilmington Business Development assistance was also provided for infrastructure development. Nunnelee said it was a smooth transition.
âIt couldn’t have been a more transparent process for us,â he said. âWe were very pleased with the way Pender County and Wilmington Business Development supported our move to the park. “
The 15-minute drive to downtown Wilmington, the city’s ports and Interstate 40 is a major advantage for businesses.
âThis corridor 421 and its proximity to Wilmington and the port is a huge attribute of the park in terms of international trade,â said McEwen. âIt’s not just a regional park or a location for upcoming national industries. International companies have looked into this park and bought land.
Polyhose, a hydraulic component manufacturing and distribution company, also does business in Pender County. The India-based manufacturer employs more than 50 people.
With the development of water and sewerage in the region, Pender Commerce Park could serve as a future catalyst for growth across the US 421 corridor. This is not only a huge benefit for industry and economic development, but it can also attract more households to the region.
âAlthough the water and sewer plant is in the industrial park, we in no way exclude these services to residential growth along this corridor 421,â he said.
McEwen said a drive to downtown Wilmington from the park takes about 15 minutes.
âThis same logic applies to residential growth,â he said. âThis corridor has a lot of attractions. I do not see the point of development in this corridor 421, it is rather an industrial or residential change. I am honestly surprised that there has not been more residential development on this 421 corridor. â
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Commissioner David Williams shared the same sentiments when talking about the growth over the decades and the possible addition of houses.
“You are only a short drive from Wilmington, on a nice four-lane road,” he said. “Directly to the bridges”.
The development of water and sewage could help move things faster.
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Pender County officials will need to extend water and sewage to areas south of the developed area to expand. They are also looking to expand in the north.
âThese plans have been discussed and are known, we have not made any progress in the design, engineering or construction related to this,â McEwen said.
These challenges come with issues like buying land and dealing with abandoned railroads and gas lines.
To continue development, the Pender County Council of Commissioners considered a proposal from Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions, Inc. to remove abandoned wells associated with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and the former BASF / Tadeka.
âThere will be logistical challenges to expand water and sewage up to 421, but nothing that we envision is insurmountable that will prevent growth and expansion from happening,â he said. .
Journalist Chase Jordan can be reached at [email protected]