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By: Erin Smith

Work is slowly progressing on a small business incubator in downtown Elizabethtown. The former US Post Office building located on East Broad Street in Elizabethtown was purchased by Bladen’s Bloomin’ Agri-Industrial to be renovated and turned into incubator spaces for small businesses.

“We hope businesses can start out here and grow into some of the larger spaces available in Elizabethtown or Bladenboro,” said Bladen County Economic Development Director Chuck Huestess.

The building measures about 4,000 sq. ft., according to Huestess. The plans call the space to be divided into 5 standard sized offices, 3 office suites, a large conference room measuring 20 ft. x 14 ft., a smaller conference room, a shared break room and shared restrooms. The project is estimated to cost about $400,000. Funding for the project includes a $200,000 grant from USDA and Bladen’s Bloomin’ Agri-Industrial is investing $200,000. The project has already seen a couple of delays.

Huestess said once the renovations on building began, it was learned asbestos was present in the building and had to be removed. “The asbestos abatement set us back awhile,” said Huestess.

He said as the asbestos abatement was taking place, Hurricane Matthew struck. The crew performing the abatement work was needed to perform emergency repairs on vital buildings and structures elsewhere, said Huestess. He added the asbestos abatement has now been completed.

Huestess said the architect for the project is Chris Adams. He has developed a blueprint to divide the interior in office space and shared common areas. Huestess said during a pre-bid conference it was learned some re-engineering of a couple of steel roof beams had to take place. He said this added another delay.

The project has now gone out to bid and the bids are due by Thursday, May 4. “We anticipate the work taking about 5 months (to complete) from the time the bid is awarded,” said Huestess.

He said there have been 5 businesses that have expressed interest in a office space in the incubator once it is completed; however, the work has taken so long, some fo those businesses have made other arrangements. Huestess added anyone who is interested in a space in the small business incubator can contact Bladen County Economic Development at 910-645-2292.