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On the job-creation front, 2019 was a good year for Johnston County.
In all, the county’s economic-development director announced more than 3,000 jobs and some $350 million in investment last year.
And “this doesn’t include the millions invested by our small businesses that are located in our towns,” Chris Johnson, director of economic development, said in a year-end email to the Johnstonian News.
By far, the biggest jobs announcement in 2019 was Eastfield, a proposed mixed-use development near Interstate 95 and U.S. 70 in Selma. The development includes a commercial and industrial area, but plans also call for single-family homes, multifamily housing, retail shops, hotels, medical offices and a senior living community.
One part of Eastfield is already taking shape, in the JR Cigar Outlet building, which the developer has renamed Triangle East Collaborative. Among other tenants, the building will be home to Old North State Food Hall, which is on schedule to open in late spring or early summer of this year.
In December, the food hall announced its first vendors — the award-winning Redneck BBQ lab, which has a restaurant near McGee’s Crossroads, and Boulevard West, a Clayton shop offering specialty coffee, teas and desserts. The shop will call its Selma location Boulevard East.
When fully developed, Eastfield could be home to more than 3,000 jobs, according to county officials. The developer has said he expects to spend $287.5 million on the multi-year project.
Elsewhere in Johnston last year, an Ashley HomeStore licensee said it would build a $16 million distribution center, retail outlet and call center near I-95 in Four Oaks. Broad River Retail, the licensee, said its Four Oaks location would employ about 160 people.
In May, Broad River joined county and Four Oaks leaders for a ground-breaking ceremony. By year’s end, the exterior walls of the distribution were up, and construction crews were moving on to the building’s interior. Broad River has said that it hopes to have the distribution center and retail outlet open by June of this year.
Johnson said his office is working with other towns to certify industrial sites. “The Johnston County Economic Development Office is continuing to partner with all of our municipalities to ensure that product is available for future job growth and investment,” he said. “We are currently working with the towns of Benson and Kenly and local property owners to certify sites for industrial growth.”
Also last year in Johnston, Morrisville-based Blue Line Aviation said in January that it would build a $13 million flight school at Johnston Regional Airport near Smithfield. That project, which broke ground in September, calls for hangar space, a pilot-training center, a restaurant, a full-motion simulator room, a playground, briefing rooms and offices.
“Johnston Regional Airport is an asset for people and companies across Johnston County and the Research Triangle,” Johnson said at the ground-breaking ceremony. “I am very pleased to have Blue Line Aviation partner with Johnston County as we work to develop and expand the potential of JNX as the premier location for economic development, business travel and now aviation training.”
Also last year, discount retailer Dollar General said it would bring 105 jobs to the Carolina Distribution Center, which is the former Winn-Dixie distribution center on Shotwell Road in Clayton.
Dollar General said it planned to lease 320,000 square feet of cold-storage space in the distribution center and pay an average yearly wage of $33,280.
“We’re excited to welcome this national retail name and the jobs and investment it intends to make in Clayton,” County Commissioners’ Chairman Ted Godwin said when Dollar General made its announcement in February. “Dollar General’s plans for cold-storage operations here highlight several key Johnston County assets, including convenient proximity to a growing consumer base, affordability, diversified labor assets and supportive local government.”
Eastfield and Dollar General made their announcements in February, which proved to be a good month for job creation in Johnston. That’s same month, Canada’s second-largest maker of automotive components, Linamar Seissenschmidt Forgings Group, said it would bring 24 jobs to an existing building in Selma’s Oak Tree Industrial Park. The company also has a plant in Wilson.
Wages for the jobs announced last year varied, with Linamar paying the highest at $55,000 a year, well above the county average of about $39,000.
Incentives to the companies varied too, with the county promising the most — $1.528 million over seven years — to Eastfield, assuming the developer meets its investment target. Dollar General will receive $234,000, Blue Line will get $100,000 and Linamar will receive $58,500, the county said in announcing those projects.