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New Hanover Industrial Park To Get $3.3M In Incentives For Expansion, New Jobs

By Emma Dill, posted Apr 15, 2024
A conceptual site plan shows the addition of 10 new buildings on 187 acres at the Wilmington Trade Center industrial park on U.S. 421. (Courtesy of Edgewater Ventures)
New Hanover County leaders approved more than $3.3 million in incentives Monday to help fund the expansion of an industrial park on a U.S. 421.

When finished, the park could be “one of the largest of its kind in the state of North Carolina,” Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development told New Hanover County’s Board of Commissioners on Monday. The county incentives will help fund the infrastructure and investment needed to add 10 buildings to the growing Wilmington Trade Center.

Two buildings with a combined 315,000 square feet are already complete within the Wilmington Trade Center and another with just over 100,000 square feet is set to start construction in the next 90 days, said Ken Dull, president of McKinley Building Corp. Once complete, the industrial park’s 13 buildings would range from 84,000 to 1 million square feet, encompassing a combined area of more than 3.2 million square feet.

The proposed structures will be shell buildings that can be leased or sold to business users. Tenants or buyers will invest in the buildings to make any needed improvements and will bring jobs and equipment to the facility.

Satterfield said creating “shovel-ready” sites with existing infrastructure and buildings plays a big role in drawing new businesses into the region and helping local businesses grow their footprints.

“That absolutely has been essential to the success that our region has had: proactively getting out and getting the essential infrastructure and the utilities in place so that we’re not selling out of the back of an empty wagon, so that we have product that we can show that’s ready to occupy,” Satterfield said.

The projects coming to North Carolina are increasing in scale, Satterfield said, a trend that’s likely to continue. The Wilmington Trade Center will be used as a "recruitment tool" to help draw business to the area, he added. 

“For Wilmington Business Development, these buildings and the planned space on the newly acquired land is a recruitment tool,” Satterfield said. “It is a place for us to bring companies from the outside in, as well as those existing industries that are currently here in our region that need to grow and expand.”

Construction of the 10 proposed buildings will require approximately $82 million in direct investment along with an estimated $8.8 million in infrastructure. That includes the construction of a road and the installation of utilities, a water tank, stormwater ponds and a traffic signal on U.S. 421, Eric Credle, New Hanover County’s Chief Financial Officer said Monday.

Credle said investing in the site's infrastructure will help draw businesses and investors into the corridor.

“With the infrastructure fully in place, the development of the park becomes attractive to potential investors because of the speed to market, having what is essentially a pad-ready site in place cuts many months if not more than a year from being ready for use,” he said.

The new buildings proposed for the Wilmington Trade Center could add between $300 million to $400 million to the county’s property tax base and generate more than 1,500 new jobs for the area.

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the incentive agreement Monday between the county and industrial park owner WTC Land Company, LLC.

A joint venture, the principals of WTC Land Company, LLC include Singerman Real Estate, Edgewater Ventures and Seamist Trade Center. Chris Norvell with Edgewater Ventures and Dull with Seamist Trade Center have served as the county’s primary contacts on the project.

“We’re excited to have the opportunity to partner with New Hanover County to bring a park of this quality and scale to the region,” Norvell, a lead industrial partner at Edgewater Ventures stated in a release issued by Wilmington Business Development Monday. “At full buildout, Wilmington Trade Center will be one of the largest Class-A industrial parks in the Carolinas and will provide New Hanover County with great opportunities for job growth and economic development.”

In October, Edgewater Ventures purchased the 187 acres next to the industrial park’s existing buildings for $7.65 million with plans to continue to grow as a master-planned industrial park. The 10 proposed buildings will be constructed on those 187 acres.

Dull said on Monday he sees the agreement as a "win-win" for New Hanover County, Wilmington Business Development and the industrial park. The groups began discussions around the incentives about a year ago. The incentives will allow the industrial park to fully build out its infrastructure and the new buildings more quickly, he said.

Dull said he sees the incentive agreement as the second phase of the county's investment in the U.S. 421 corridor. In recent years, New Hanover County leaders have invested in running utilities along the growing industrial corridor.

County staff arrived at roughly $3.3 million in incentives by totaling the infrastructure costs the county had precedent for funding, Credle said. That included the cost of utilities, a water tank and fire pump building and a wastewater lift station.

The agreement structures the payout of the incentive money into three payment buckets. 

One-third of the total incentive funding – about $1.13 million – would be invested in the site’s infrastructure. During the two-and-a-half-year period between July 1, 2024, and December 31, 2026, New Hanover County would pay $1 in incentive funds for every $7.85 spent by WTC Land Company, LLC on infrastructure costs.

Another third of the funding – about $1.13 million – would be paid based on the company’s direct investment of $82 million, which is the estimated increase to the tax base associated with the construction of the industrial park’s next four buildings. The money would be payable during the five years from July 1, 2026 to June 30, 2031.

The last $1.13 million in county funding would be based on the addition of 1,500 new full-time equivalent employees. The money could be paid out in the five years between July 1, 2026 and June 30, 2031.

Per the agreement, no more than one-third of the total incentive amount could be paid out to the company in a single year and the infrastructure and direct investments would be paid to the company on a “pro-rata basis.”

New Hanover County Board of Commissioners voiced support for the incentives with several members underscoring the value of attracting new business for the region’s economy.

“This is the sort of investment into infrastructure and jobs and increasing our tax base that will have an excellent return on investment,” said Commissioner Dane Scalise.

Commissioner Rob Zapple recognized the foresight of past boards in investing in infrastructure in the U.S. 421 corridor. But looking to the future, the county will have to continue to invest to meet the needs of coming businesses, he said.

“The biggest challenge in front of us now is getting that workforce here in New Hanover County,” Zapple said. “That’s going to be our challenge now – never thought we’d see that day when we’re scrambling for it, but here we are.”
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