The former site of Vertex Railcar Corp., now being marketed as Wilmington Business Park, has the potential to have a significant impact on the region, local and regional economic developers say.
This 68-acre property with a combination of heavy manufacturing and office space is up for lease, owned by California-based Industrial Realty Group LLC.
“We believe manufacturing jobs will come back to the U.S., and we’ve invested heavily into manufacturing facilities,” said Onno Steger, senior vice president at IRG.
The former Vertex site has 20 heavy industrial cranes on-site and rail components as well as “direct connectivity” to the Port of Wilmington, he said.
Steger also lauded the region’s available workforce and ease of recruitment to the area.
“We’ve seen consistent interest. We’ve just had some travel issues with COVID,” Steger said. “We’ve seen interest within the U.S. … but additionally we’ve seen international interests that just couldn’t get here and still can’t get here.”
IRG has seen interest from prospects, including manufacturers needing the rail and port access, he said, adding, “it’s really a nice combination … we have seen clients from all spectrums.”
IRG is marketing the site at 202 Raleigh St. along with economic development groups Wilmington Business Development (WBD), North Carolina’s Southeast and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.
The size of the facility and the type of manufacturing that it has held at the site since its beginnings, have strong potential to bring in some big investment and job creation opportunities for a company that would encompass the entire property and facility, said Steve Yost, president of North Carolina’s Southeast, an 18-county regional economic development group.
The highest and best use for the property is manufacturing, which would bring a skilled workforce and high-paying jobs, Yost said.
The site is readily available to turn around and be operational, he said, adding that the firm would be open to discussing other improvements to the site, including expanding the site.
There aren’t many buildings in the United States that have that connectivity to the port, to the rail and that have heavy infrastructure in place, Steger said. “The speed-to-market: There is a huge difference also because if you go build something like this, you’re probably two years before you get to turn it on. One of the beauties about this facility is you can probably be in business and running in three to six months.”
Constructed at various stages between the 1940s and 1980s, the site changed hands several times over the years, he said.
Major improvements were most recently made at the site by failed rail car manufacturer Vertex Railcar Corp.
IRG put it back on the market for lease this spring.
The property includes more than 500,000 square feet of heavy manufacturing space consisting of rail running into the main building, officials said.
“It is one of the largest available industrial buildings in the region,” Yost said. “We hardly have any buildings in the region that have cranes like that. It’s a very expensive component to have.”
Other recent improvements to the infrastructure at the site include heat treat ovens, and new blast, paint and cure shops.
“An improved asset has been left behind, and we are very excited to joint market the property as we believe this will be the home (as a building and/or site) to a future quality employer,” said Scott Satterfield, WBD CEO. “Industrial activity has further accelerated since the onset of the pandemic, and we believe this site caters itself to a myriad of like opportunities.”
The site could also capture the relocation of companies from the Northeast, which has been a trend in the region before and during the pandemic.
“At least from what we have been involved in, interest is picking up,” Yost said. “All inquiries sort of took a dip after COVID really got going, and now we have been seeing [an uptick] in activity as the economy has started coming back some.”