First Proposed Occupant In County Business Park To Invest $10M

By Johanna F. Still, posted Feb 7, 2023
Francini Inc. has plans to construct a 100,000-square-foot building and invest $10 million as the county's first occupant in the Blue Clay Business Park. (Courtesy of New Hanover County)
At their regular meeting Monday, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners accepted an offer to purchase land in the county’s new Blue Clay Business Park, marking what could be the first occupant and owner. 

An affiliate of Francini Inc., based in southern California, has offered $250,000 to acquire 6.3 acres. Now that the county has accepted the offer, an upset bid process and 90-day due diligence period will begin. 

As part of the deal, Francini Inc. will also have the option to purchase an adjacent 7 acres at the same rate per acre ($40,000) for a four-year period. 

Scott Satterfield, CEO and president of Wilmington Business Development, told commissioners the company plans to construct a nearly 100,000-square-foot building on the first parcel. Francini Inc. is a leading importer and distributor of natural and engineered stone products, Satterfield said. 

This build will consist of “import warehouse distribution” space as well as a “world-class showroom component,” Satterfield told commissioners. 

Francini Inc. currently has a location in Wilmington at 406 Landmark Drive and wishes to “add to its regional capacity.” The purchase option could lead to the development of a planned second phase of the project. During phase one, Satterfield said the firm expects to invest $10 million and create dozens of jobs. 

The project is contingent on infrastructure being established at the site, expected to occur by the end of the year.  “The completion of the water and sewer to that site is the most critical component at this time,” Satterfield said. County officials anticipate awarding a construction bid in March to bring infrastructure to the site, a county spokesperson told the Business Journal last month. Currently in the engineering phase, the project is estimated to cost $2.3 million. 

“The park’s proximity to Interstate 40 and a partnership with the county were clearly factors in [Francini's] decision-making process,” Satterfield said, adding that the N.C. State Ports Authority is another important stakeholder. “This is just the latest in activity in a string of warehouse distribution success stories for our region.” 

Commissioner Rob Zapple commended Francini location manager Sean Banester for taking the big step to move into the new park. “In essence, you’ve become our model home for our business park there,” Zapple said. 

Satterfield told commissioners that the county's product development – like creating and promoting the Blue Clay Business Park and nearby Holly Shelter Business Park –  “is a critical and essential aspect for attracting companies to this area.” 

“You can’t sell out of the back of an empty wagon,” he said. “You’ve got to have something to show them. It has to have the essential infrastructure. It has to have the right location.”
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