ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown Industrial Park report 15 years in the making was delivered at the Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery on Thursday, when interested stakeholders met to hear of the economic impact made by the project.
A group of about 60 representatives from the Bladen County Board of Commissioners, town of Elizabethtown, town of White Lake, Committee of 100, Star Telephone, Four County Electric, Elizabethtown Airport Commission, and Bladen County Economic Development, as well as private stakeholders, attended the meeting hosted by Bladen’s Bloomin’.
Bladen County Economic Development Executive Director Chuck Heustess informed the assembly that he is currently talking with a company that would bring 100 high-paying positions, such as engineers and truck drivers, to the Industrial Park and is trying to attract a company which would, in 12 to 48 months, employ 200 to 400 people.
Heustess shared the following impact seen in the 15 years since the Industrial Park was constructed, noting that the 300-acre park is 20-percent developed:
— Jobs have been created for 245 people who work directly for the businesses at the park.
— An additional 47 jobs in Bladen County and another 97 in the southeast region have been created by incidental work. For instance, a full-time air conditioning/heating repair position may have been created just to work on units for the businesses at the site.
— The average wage for each company at the park ranges from $32,000 to $45,000. The average wage for the park as a whole is $34,230, which is 5.5 percent higher than the county average, which is, Heustess said, “heavily influenced” by Smithfield.
— Sales generated by the wages of employees — money they spend at retail outlets, for instance — totals $4.17 million.
— The total economic impact of the Industrial Park to Bladen County is $31.7 million.
Not included in the figures are numbers generated by EMS, since it was already affecting the county before the Industrial Park’s construction.
“It has had a much bigger economic impact than I realized when we started,” Heustess said of the park, “and it has the potential to grow much larger.”
Elizabethtown Town Manager Eddie Madden informed the group that, because aviation is one of the fastest growing industries in the state, the town made a pitch to the Division of Aviation to invest in the Elizabethtown Airport.
“They saw the merit in that,” Madden said, “and last year, $1.2 million was appropriated to build a taxiway from the airport to the Industrial Park.”
The land has been cleared, and the project is currently in the design phase. Madden said that involving some type of business incubator that would be easily accessible to flights was also a possibility.
In addition to money for the taxiway, another $1.1 million was allocated in grant money for the construction of a new terminal, bringing the total to $2.3 million in grants, none of which required a local match but funded the project 100 percent.
“I hope it will complement the Industrial Park and bring even more jobs to the community,” said Madden.
“We keep hearing that we have one of the nicest small industrial parks in the state,” said Heustess. “We’re starting to see a bigger vision of where we can go.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.