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Economic Development forecast looking bright for Bladen County

By Erin Smith

Communities are always looking for ways to attract new businesses and create new jobs for their citizens. Bladen County is no exception, according to Bladen County Economic Development Director Chuck Heustess. 

He said the Bladen County Economic Development Commission, the Bladen County Commissioners and Bladen’s Bloomin’ Agri-Industrial are all working together with Economic Development Attorney Ernie Pearson on product development. 

“We hope that this will lead to another speculative building,” said Heustess. “All of our existing buildings are gone now.”

The proposed building would measure between 18,000 and 24,000 square feet. He said one company has visited Bladen County and they are in a position to wait for the construction of a speculative building to be completed. He said he could not reveal the name of the company or any other details of the project but he did say they are involved in machining. 

Heustess said Bladen County’s biggest economic development issue right now is the fact the county does not have any “product” meaning there are no empty buildings suitable for manufacturing. 

“One of our biggest goals for this year is figuring out how to escalate our building schedule,” said Heustess. 

He also said the Economic Development office is working with the town of Bladenboro to determine what can be done to expand the town’s sewer capacity. 

“It’s not just a matter of building a larger facility,” said Heustess. 

He said options being explored include determining if any specific measures can be taken with regards to the efficiency of the existing system. 

“In order to expand (the Bladenboro Industrial Park), the town has to have more sewer capacity,” said Heustess.

There is also good news in the future of Economic Development with Bladen County. Heustess said the small business incubator, which will be located in the former Post Office building in Elizabethtown, has an anticipated opening date of early summer 2018. 

He also said work is being done to create a multi-tenant health care facility for the town of Bladenboro and the county is continuing to assist Smithfield with the company’s expansion plans.

Heustess said one economic development story to watch for the state is the location of the proposed Toyota/Mazda Electric Car plant. He said reports he has seen note North Carolina is in the running as a potential location for the plant. If Toyota chooses North Carolina, that could spell a boom in economic development projects for many counties. 

Heustess explained the Electric Car plant, if it is located in North Carolina, will spur growth for industries that will supply products needed for the manufacture of the cars. He said those plants could potentially choose to locate in counties other than where the car plant is located. 

The question will be, what kind of facility will those suppliers need? 

“If this happens (Toyota choosing North Carolina), we know we could potentially benefit from a supplier locating here,” said Heustess. 

He said that is why it is so important to develop a speculative building and determine what type of building it will be and have the plans drawn and the construction time frame set. Heustess said this would allow the county to be positioned to compete for one of the suppliers for the car plant.

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