Statewide: Eastern region, November 2015

 In 2015-11
Gaining altitude

Eastern North Carolina is hoping a recent jobs announcement at the North Carolina Global TransPark will give new life to the region’s hopes of developing an aerospace industry. North State Aviation, a Winston-Salem based aircraft maintenance and repair company, announced in late September that it would invest $900,000 in the 2,500-acre Lenoir County industrial center, creating 109 jobs over two years. North State was started in 2010 by three former Piedmont Airlines employees, including CEO Charlie Creech. The company is the largest tenant at Winston-Salem’s Smith Reynolds Airport, employing more than 400 people and serving major commercial clients including Chicago-based United Airlines. The announcement is the largest at the TransPark since 2008, when Boeing spin-off Spirit AeroSystems said it would bring its latest facility — and 1,000 jobs — to the park, says Mark Pope, executive director of Lenoir County Economic Development. Spirit’s 500,000-square-foot fuselage and wing shop opened in 2010.

“It really opens up more opportunities for the Global TransPark and eastern North Carolina,” Pope said. His office has been working to market an aviation cluster. Planning for the industrial site dates to the early 1990s, when it was touted by then-Gov. Jim Martin and other state leaders who compared the project’s potential impact to that of Research Triangle Park. With thousands of jobs expected, the state provided a $25 million loan initially, and more than $50 million in additional funds, according to a 2011 report.

The park never met targets for employment and investment, while the aerospace industry has soared in the Triad area. Spirit hasn’t hired as many people as expected — 456 private-sector employees worked at the TransPark in mid-2014, 6% fewer than a year earlier. With little chance of recovery, the state essentially wrote off more than $26 million in debt in 2013; the park still owes more than $11 million. Park officials didn’t respond to interview requests.


Briefs

PERQUIMANS COUNTY — The county placed a 120-day moratorium on future wind-farm development. Some residents want greater buffer requirements and are concerned about aesthetics and potential threat to birds and aircraft. Spain-based Iberdrola is building the state’s first commercial wind farm spanning 22,000 acres in Perquimans and Pasquotank counties (Statewide, September).

BRUNSWICK COUNTYMichael DiTullo was named economic development director for Brunswick County. He was CEO of Rockland County Economic Development in New York since 2012, during which time the agency attracted 2,500 jobs and nearly $1 billion in private investment. Brunswick dissolved its separate Economic Development Commission in July and established the new department to promote business development.

GREENVILLEEast Carolina University raised a record $39 million in the 2014-15 academic year, compared with $33 million in 2013-14. The school received more than 8,500 individual gifts and several corporate donations to support scholarships, research, new buildings, athletics and other programs.

WILMINGTONPharmaceutical Product Development was awarded a two-year federal contract to evaluate avian influenza vaccines from the national stockpile for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. The contract could be extended up to five years. The contract-research organization based here also will provide product research and development for the U.S. Army for five years with a possible extension of up to five more years. The value of the contracts was not disclosed.

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