Leaders discuss plan that could bring hundreds of jobs to Columbus County

Leaders discuss plan that could bring hundreds of jobs to Columbus County

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Hundreds of jobs could be coming to Columbus County.

Monday night, county commissioners approved a plan that could potential bring up to 450 jobs to communities across the county. Right now, companies have signed on to bring 50 jobs to Bolton and up to 150 to Chadbourn, while other projects are ideas for now.

It’s part of the Economic Development Job Creation Plan for Distressed Communities. Economic Development Director Gary Lanier has been working with state Department of Commerce leaders for about a year, and he said the goal is to bring jobs to seven communities in the county.

Those communities include Bolton, Chadbourn, Delco, Fair Bluff, Tabor City, Whiteville and Lake Waccamaw. The jobs range from working at a brewery in downtown Whiteville to working at a call center in Fair Bluff.

“It just occurred to me that it really wasn’t fair to just focus on one or two of our communities. Now, as the third largest county in the state, we can’t really have a report initially that covers every single community,” Lanier said.

He said that’s why they tried to spread the projects out from one end of the county to the other.

Lanier hopes as part of the plan the county will help renovate and purchase buildings in these communities for companies to move in. He said that could cost up to $9 million, and hopes to apply for grants to help pay for construction. The biggest problem right now, Lanier said, is finding the available buildings for potential companies to move into. The plan is evolving, he said.

“As General MacArthur said, plans are useless or worthless, but planning is invaluable. No plan is static. This plan will not be static. It will be continuingly changing, evolving. Other communities will be brought in as projects will be brought in and identified and executed,” Lanier said.

A tech jewelry company that has ties to Bolton wants to relocate from San Francisco to Bolton in what Lanier calls “Project Bling." It would add 15 jobs initially, then 50 jobs long term. Lanier said they hope to build a 6,000 square foot building on town-owned property. It would cost $940,000 to build.

The company coming to the area would bring an additional $5,600 in annual tax revenue to Bolton, and $7,500 to the county.

“Project Medical” is a medical records coding business that plans to expand from another state to Chadbourn. Lanier said it will initially bring 35 jobs to the area, and up to 150 long term. They’re thinking of renovating an old grocery store to have the company move into, he said. It would bring $3,000 in additional annual tax revenue to Chadbourn and $3,800 to the county.

An international logistics park is planned for Delco. According to Lanier, it would be a 100,000 square foot manufacturing distribution shell building proposed by an industrial developer.

It would create 25 jobs initially, and 50 long term. Construction would cost about $4 million. The project could bring $32,000 in additional annual tax revenue to the county.

In Fair Bluff, Lanier said they hope to build a produce processing, commercial kitchen and call center. All of the businesses combined could create up to 86 jobs. They are thinking of renovating the former Umbro property, or building a 15,000 square foot multi-tenant building.

The construction costs could range from $1.3 million if a new building is built, up to $3 million to renovate the existing building. Fair Bluff could receive $8,500 in additional annual tax revenue, and the city could receive $24,000.

In Tabor City, Lanier said they hope to build a multi-tenant incubator in downtown. The first incubator is almost full, and Lanier said this project would generate additional opportunities and new life in the downtown area.

The former Heilig Meyer building was donated to the town for the project. Up to 80 jobs could be created over nine years, according to Lanier. They’re hoping to have an information technology and a light manufacturing business move in. Construction costs will be about $1 million. Tabor City would get about $6,700 in additional annual tax revenue, and the county would get $5,400.

Plans for a microbrewery in Whiteville’s downtown could bring 32 jobs. Lanier said the project could bring new life into the downtown area. They hope to renovate a 1940s-era storefront. Whiteville could get $705 in additional annual tax revenues, and $873 to the county.

In Lake Waccamaw, an economic development assessment was done, but there are no current project plans. Lanier said they hope to look at some type of tourist angle for a potential project.

Lanier said certain jobs were chosen for certain communities based on what they think will fit the area. He said they hope the plan will be a model for other rural counties in North Carolina.

Also at the commissioners meeting Monday, Whiteville City Manager Darren Currie asked county commissioners to form a drainage committee to talk about ways to fix drainage issues. It has been a problem in the city for years, he said.

Currie cited studies from the 1970s to 2017 that said development has impacted the city’s ability to drain water. He asked the commissioners to consider creating a city-wide or county-wide committee. The commissioners told Currie to talk to other town leaders and do more research about the issue before they’d agree to anything because fixing one city’s drainage issues could hurt another area. He said he agreed to their reasoning.

“We may not know everywhere that’s affected, however, if we do something that is going to affect one community then we may also affect another community adversely, so we need to make sure we keep those things in mind," Currie said.

City and county leaders also plan to talk to leaders in neighboring South Carolina towns to get input on ways to address the issue.

Commissioners also unanimously voted to table the item on the agenda regarding emergency services options for radio coverage in county. They told Ron Runya, the representative from the company JVC Kenwood, they need to create a committee to do more research on other options for radios for parts of county with limited coverage.

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