Regional Report Eastern June 2010

 In 2010-06

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State pores over oil on water 

When the oil rig that exploded in April off the coast of Louisiana poured millions of gallons of black gold into the Gulf of Mexico, it also muddied the water for those aching to drill for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean. With a Democratic president’s backing, offshore exploration had seemed a good bet. Now, the urge to “Drill, baby, drill!” in the Atlantic has been tempered by the specter of spill, maybe spill.

Proponents still say offshore resources should be developed, with greater safeguards, to lessen dependence on foreign supplies and benefit the state. The Southeast Energy Alliance, a business trade group, says offshore energy development could create 6,700 jobs and bring North Carolina up to $577 million a year in federal revenue sharing. Critics say any economic benefits aren’t worth the threat to the state’s beaches and coastal communities, which depend heavily on tourism. The Gulf disaster provided hard evidence of the damage that drilling can do.

FEDS target XE

Activities at a military-style training compound near Moyock continue to draw legal fire — this time from federal prosecutors. Five former employees of Blackwater USA, now known as Xe Services LLC, face charges in the handling of rifles, machine guns and other weapons at the 7,000-acre training center. A federal indictment claims employees illegally purchased two dozen automatic weapons and also covered up the gift of firearms to the king of Jordan during a visit. The company, which is fighting a lawsuit by former employees who claim it defrauded the government with phony and questionable invoices, was not named in the indictment. Defendants include former President Gary Jackson. His attorney said in a federal court hearing that government officials were aware of what was happening.

KINSTONMasterBrand Cabinets plans to add 334 jobs within three years, bringing local employment to more than 530. The Jasper, Ind.-based manufacturer is adding product lines and will start hiring this summer. Salaries for the new jobs will average $25,787 a year.

JACKSONVILLEForbes magazine says this is the best metro in the U.S. to find a job. One big reason: the presence of Camp Lejeune Marine base. The Fayetteville metro, home of the Army’s Fort Bragg, ranked sixth.

HAMLET — Erie, Pa.-based Plastek Industries plans to open a factory near here by October. It will employ 250 within three years. The company makes plastic packaging.

SOUTHPORT — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended that the state and federal governments spend $10 million to study the feasibility of developing an international port near here. The N.C. State Ports Authority hopes to open it in 2017.

MOREHEAD CITY — The N.C. Coastal Resources Commission didn’t recommend lifting a ban on seawalls for beach erosion but suggested conditions the legislature should require if they are allowed. Critics say seawalls protect one section of beach at the expense of other property.

FAYETTEVILLE — About 90% of the Forces Command civilian employees at Fort McPherson, Ga., plan to move to Fort Bragg with the command next year. Only 72 of 669 workers won’t come.

LUMBER BRIDGEMountaire Farms, a North Little Rock, Ark.-based poultry processor, plans to spend $17.9 million and add 51 jobs at its local plant within three years. Employment will rise to about 2,550.

WILMINGTON — he city landed the first contract for events at its 107,000-square-foot convention center, slated to open this fall. The North Carolina Healthcare Engineers Association, based in Charlotte, will hold a small meeting next spring and its annual convention in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

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