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New Bern Sun Journal, October 11, 2022--Craven County Industrial Park is continuing to attract businesses crucial to the county’s economic health and will be announcing new projects in the coming months, according to the county’s economic development director.
The industrial park is one of Craven County’s main economic drivers and job creators. Located just outside of New Bern at the intersection of Clarks Road and US 70, it features some of the county’s largest employers, such as Moen and BSH Home Appliance.
But just how important is the industrial park to Craven County’s economic health and what might the future hold for the area in terms of growth and development?
According to Craven County Economic Development Director Jeff Wood, in the last four years, nine companies have opened businesses at the industrial park. Wood said those companies alone have made more than $20 million in investments and created around 200 jobs.
In that time, Wood said the county has sold more than 40 acres of property at the industrial park.
Currently, there are 20 companies operating at the park. Moen is its largest employer by far, with close to 1,000 workers. Chatsworth Products employs close to 170 and BSH has around 150 people working out of its warehouse.
In December 2021, Aeronautical Systems Inc. held its groundbreaking ceremony at the park. The company provides engineering, manufacturing and MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) services. ASI announced its plan to invest $5.6 million and is expected to bring at least 30 new jobs to the area.
The most recent business to locate in the industrial park was Crystal Coast Machine.
“We actually closed on that property this past week and that was authorized back in May or June,” Wood said. “That was a local machine shop company that started up and needed an opportunity to expand. They bought a couple of acres and will relocate there where it’s a little bit more conducive for them and their clients.”
Looking to future growth at the industrial park, Wood said the county has 20 acres of property left on its south side and 50 acres on the north side. Though he wasn’t ready to give out details, he said other projects are in the planning stages.
“We feel pretty confident that property will be sold within the next five years, economics depending,” Wood commented. “We’ve got a couple of other projects that we’re working on so there should be some good stuff over the next few months.”
Wood said the diversity of businesses at Craven County Industrial Park is one of its greatest strengths.
“It’s across the board the different kinds of manufacturers and industrial companies that are in there, and that means job security,” Wood said. “From defense contractors to machine shops, that really does bode well for the park and it helps diversify the county’s economy as well.”
The companies currently located at Craven County Industrial Park are: Moen, BSH Home Appliances, Craven County Wood Energy, Duke Progress Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, Wheatstone, Chatsworth Products, Aylward Enterprises, Wirthwein New Bern Corp., Johnson Brothers Mutual Distributing of NC, Urethane Innovators, McGuckin & Pyle, Inc., Minges Bottling, EAE Inc., Carolina GSE, Chemac, ASI, MJE Telestructure LLC, Titan Fuels, and Crystal Coast Machine.
Wood said one of the ways the county has enticed businesses to locate to the industrial park is through the construction of shell buildings. In December 2020, the Craven 100 Alliance announced the sale of their 20,000-square-foot shell building to Carolina GSE, Inc., bringing a $2 million investment and creating 10 new jobs.
“They just recently expanded that to a 40,000 square feet building and that allowed private developers to start looking at that opportunity,” Wood said. “The county has sold property to a couple of different developers that have built about a 30,000 square foot building and they had offers as soon as they put the plans in with the planning department. That’s how quickly they sold.”
Wood said having pre-built shell buildings in place can save business 6 months to a year of construction time.
“A lot of the requests we get are for buildings that are in place, not just green space,” Wood noted. “We definitely have that demand in Craven County.”
Asked if the county was considering purchasing more land around the current park, Wood said the options for expansion were being considered.
“There is some property that is around the industrial park but we’re weighing that with other properties around the county,” Wood said. “It is attractive because it’s right near US 70 and the infrastructure is in place but we’re looking to see what our next steps are going to be.”
Wood said it was too early to address talk of a possible Jones County-Craven County industrial park on Weyerhaeuser property off of US 17. The land was included in properties Duke Energy selected across North Carolina for inclusion in its 2021 Site Readiness Program to prepare them for business and industrial development.
“There’s nothing right now to be able to talk about. It’s something that went through an analysis, which we do all the time,” Wood said. “Duke Energy has worked with us on four pieces of property to analyze it to say, ‘Is this a good piece of property to look at for industrial development?” It’s really a research project more than anything else.”
Aside from the company's initial investment and job creation, Wood said the businesses at Craven County Industrial Park provide long-term financial benefits for the county through property taxes and utility payments to the city of New Bern
“A really cool statistic for me is when the pandemic hit in 2020 the nation’s unemployment rate peaked at 13% and ours peaked at 10% and I attribute that to the diverse economy of Craven County with defense and manufacturing and retail and tourism,” Wood commented. “The industrial park plays a critical part in that, it’s a centerpiece."