NEW HANOVER COUNTY and BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The international company Caterpillar was considering constructing a new plant on land referred to as International Logistics Park off of Highway 74-76, which borders both Brunswick and Columbus counties.
Friday, WECT.com learned that Georgia landed the company instead, using tax incentives and a state job-training program to lure the company away from North Carolina.
Now, state leaders are trying to figure out what can be done to bring big business to the area. They say Caterpillar officials and economic development experts cited several reasons as to why the Tar Heel state lost the bid.
One of the biggest reasons involves local ports. Both Charleston and Savannah have much more sophisticated port facilities, according to officials.
Rep. Danny McComas says the ports there have the ability to roll big items, like Caterpillar's equipment, that don't fit into containers onto and off of ships -- a perk that Wilmington's ports don't offer.
Rep. Susi Hamilton says the company gave the state constructive feedback, and that the clear message is that the state needs to improve its infrastructure.
"For manufacturing and distribution, which are coming back to the US…I believe that investment will make all the difference in the long run..."
A draft of the state's maritime strategy report gives an indication of what the state can do to improve ports -- a first step in what could be a long process.
Bob Warwick is the head of the Coalition for Economic Advancement. He blames anti-business movements, like No Port Southport and Stop Titan.
"The industry doesn't want to go where they're not wanted," said Warwick. "We need to have a welcome mat out for them, and not attack them."
Still, McComas remains hopeful.
"The third [time is] is going to be the charm," he said. "You are just massaging your proposal, your presentation, what you have to offer, and you just keep getting better and better. I feel very good. The next time, we're going to get it."
Caterpillar is the second big loss for the area.
Late last year, Continental Tire chose South Carolina over Brunswick County. Some say too much red tape led that failure.
In North Carolina, cash incentives have to be approved by the legislature.