The safety of Pender County’s public water system will get a significant boost, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). The federal grant of $1,575,000 will help fund the county’s Natural Gas Fuel Generator project.
The total project cost is about $2.1 million.
“The EDA investment supports Pender County with constructing a permanent natural gas-fueled generator at its water treatment plant and establishing a berm around the adjoining county’s wastewater treatment plant to mitigate the impact of significant flooding on the operation of both facilities,” a news release from the county stated, adding that the project, based in the Pender Commerce Park off U.S. 421, will create 50 jobs and save 30 jobs.
Permanent installation of a natural gas generator and construction of the berm will strengthen the capacity of both treatment plants – located in the Pender Commerce Park – to withstand natural disasters such as Hurricane Florence, with its heavy rains and flooding, Pender County Manager Chad McEwen said in the release.
“In addition, these improvements will help ensure continuity of operations for the industries located at Pender Commerce Park during similar events,” he said, explaining that the commerce park's growing number of tenants can retain their workers and grow. Significant private investment by those companies at the commerce park helped to strengthen Pender County's case in its bid for the grant.
The grant application was submitted soon after Hurricane Florence in 2018 flooded many parts of Pender County and threatened the continuity of water supplies to both industries and residents, McEwen said. County officials were afraid that companies planning to locate or expand within the 330-acre park might rethink their plans if future natural disasters had the potential to disrupt water plant operations, either through flooding or lack of power.
"The generator will make all these issues go away," McEwen continued.
Pender Commerce Park continues to see increased development, including the recent addition of an $8 million, 127,000-square-foot industrial facility.
“Once completed, the [natural gas-fueled generator] project will create and retain jobs, spur private investment, and advance economic resiliency near Opportunity Zones and throughout the region,” said George Brown, chairman of the Pender County Board of County Commissioners, in the release.