National Gypsum grant approved by Wilmington City Council

National Gypsum grant approved by Wilmington City Council

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington City Council unanimously approved an incentive package for National Gypsum on Tuesday, one day after the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a $350,000 investment incentive to bring the company back to Wilmington.

The city's grant authorizes $46,000 per year for five years, not to exceed $230,000. The grant will not commence until a certificate of occupancy is issued for the new retrofitted facility.

The city's resolution says a National Gypsum facility "would include a real and personal property investment of a minimum of $25,000,000" and the hiring of 51 employees at an average annual salary of $57,800.

"The City's current infrastructure, including water and sewer facilities, can support the proposed facility," the resolution reads.

John King, National Gypsum's vice president of business development, said at Tuesday's meeting the $25 million investment goes beyond just reopening the Wilmington plant.

"We want to make a significant investment to make the plant better," King said, noting enhanced railroad capabilities would be part of the project. "The incentives (the city puts) forward would help get us over the goal line."

During the public hearing portion of Tuesday's meeting, several people spoke in favor and in opposition to the National Gypsum proposal. Those opposed questioned the company's emissions of formaldehyde.

"You always want to bring in jobs. I understand that," said one of the people opposed to the grant. "It appears to me we're conducting an experiment to see how many chemicals we can put into our environment before we see adverse effects."

New Hanover County commissioners asked National Gypsum to monitor air quality through smokestack testing on Monday and public speakers and city council members mentioned it again Tuesday. King said the company is on board with the testing, which is also included in the city council's incentive package.

At a second public hearing during Monday's NHC Board of Commissioners meeting, several people raised questions about National Gypsum's use or creation of formaldehyde, but King said then, and repeated on Tuesday, that National Gypsum does not make formaldehyde.

He said a water vapor byproduct of producing drywall contains trace amounts of formaldehyde, but researchers for National Gypsum said approximately 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of the compound would be emitted annually.

The NC Division of Air Quality, which issued a permit for National Gypsum's Wilmington site in 2016, said the company is permitted to emit up to 8.77 tons of formaldehyde per year.

"We don't have anything to hide," said King, who used to live in Wilmington and said he returns to the area sometimes to go fishing. "We expect our emissions would be lower (because of new equipment capabilities).

"The levels are so small and if you go away from the plant, they're almost nonexistent."

City Council also approved to allot funding for new sidewalks and crosswalks at its meeting Tuesday.

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