Statewide: Eastern region, September 2014

 In 2014-09
Generating less debt
Thirty-two eastern North Carolina cities are dumping their interests in power plants operated by Duke Energy, a move akin to getting out of a bad, decades-old marriage. Raleigh-based Carolina Power & Light, which became Progress Energy in 2000, cut a deal in which the cities took on $3.6 billion in debt to buy minority stakes in four nuclear and coal plants in 1982. Investors grabbed yields of 12% or more paid on the bonds, which enabled CP&L to finish its Shearon Harris nuclear plant after cost overruns topped $2 billion. But the deal slowed eastern North Carolina’s growth and forced about 270,000 residents to pay as much as a third more for electricity as folks in other Progress cities. In July, Duke agreed to take over the cities’ interests for $1.2 billion, trimming their remaining debt to about $400 million. It will take at least a year for state and federal regulators to consider the deal, but it would give Duke more electric power and improve prospects of eastern North Carolina, which needs lower rates to attract new industry and residents, says David Hodgkins, town manager of Farmville. Duke wouldn’t explain why it favored a buyout now after turning down pleas for assistance for many years. Clayton Town Manager Steve Biggs credits the increased size of Charlotte-based Duke after its 2012 purchase of Progress, and lower interest rates — the cities’ debt-related costs are down to about 5.2%. “It’s a more manageable situation now.”

 


Briefs

FAYETTEVILLEHanesbrands will close its distribution center here, laying off all 176 workers by March 31, three months later than previously announced. The Winston-Salem-based apparel-maker acquired the center last year when it bought Iselin, N.J.-based Maidenform Brands for $583 million.

BELHAVEN Vidant Health closed its hospital here July 1, idling 76 employees. Originally scheduled to close April 1, the Greenville-based health system granted a three-month extension so the city could take ownership of 49-bed Vidant Pungo Hospital. The city’s plan failed. Vidant plans to build a $4.2 million clinic to serve Hyde and Beaufort counties.

FAYETTEVILLECape Fear Valley Health asked state regulators to approve a $30 million, 34-bed expansion of its local 490-bed medical center. The hospital system, based here, plans to complete the project in January 2017, pending the ruling of the state Department of Health and Human Services.

GOLDSBOROAAR Aircraft Services will lay off 102 workers at its 377-employee local plant by Sept. 12 after completing a contract with Oshkosh, Wis.-based Oshkosh Corp. The Wood Dale, Ill.-based company makes vehicle and aircraft parts and equipment for the defense industry. It employs more than 6,000 people at 60 locations worldwide.

WILSONBridgestone Americas, subsidiary of Tokyo-based Bridgestone Corp., named Michael Darr plant manager, succeeding Gary Williamson, who is moving to company headquarters in Nashville as executive director of manufacturing operations. The tire-maker employs 2,125 at its plant here and is the county’s largest manufacturing employer.

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