Private investment leads industrial development

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Wilson’s availability of small industrial buildings is getting a boost from private investment thanks to a new partnership.

Davis Miller, the CEO of Tobacco Rag Processors, recently purchased the seven remaining lots at Hackney Industrial Park with the plan to construct shell buildings for industrial companies looking for between 20,000 and 50,000 square feet of space. Wilson County Properties, the nonprofit development side of the Wilson Economic Development Council, sold the lots to Davis, who is planning the project as a private investor outside of his role in the world of tobacco.

“We have seen a significant increase in prospect inquiries for smaller buildings,” said Chris Williford, chairman of the board for Wilson County Properties. “Unfortunately, we have not been able to match these inquiries with suitable buildings. This partnership enables us to provide attractive, affordable facilities to the small and medium-sized industries — industries that we know will grow and flourish in Wilson.”

Development council Executive Director Jennifer Lantz said the park, which was Wilson’s second industrial park, has one vacancy among the existing buildings on Old Statonsburg Road near U.S. 264 and Interstate 795. Construction will begin this summer on a 25,000-square-foot shell building with the rest of the buildings completed in the next three to five years.

“We are excited to move forward with the construction of much needed small to mid-size industrial space in Wilson,” said Miller. “We will be able to offer leases, lease purchases or sales for companies needing our space. It has taken a real collaborative effort by our team and Jennifer Lantz with Wilson County Properties to get to this point and now be able to make this project a reality.”

Chris Hill of Hill Building Contractors said the buildings will not include the floors, lighting and so forth to allow companies to customize the space to its needs.

“We’re thrilled (Miller) is willing to tackle this. He is taking a lot of risk,” Lantz told members of the development council at a Tuesday meeting. “... We want to see some small industries — local or new to Wilson — locate there because small industries grow faster than big industries do.”

More Jobless than Pre-recession

Despite widespread recovery from the recession, Wilson is among nine counties in eastern North Carolina where unemployment rates continue to be higher than pre-recession levels. According to the N.C. Justice Center, Wilson’s unemployment rate in April of 7.5 percent is 1.6 percent higher than in December 2007.

“The epicenter of North Carolina’s recovery seems to run along interstates 40 and 85, but it has bypassed the state’s 95 corridor,” said William Munn, policy analyst for the N.C. Justice Center Budget and Tax Center. “In the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a robust state and federal investment oriented towards employing local residents and contracting with local businesses could go a long way to driving improvements in eastern N.C. and for the state as a whole.”

Twenty counties throughout the region are a percentage point or more higher than the state’s unemployment average of 4.3 percent. Rates for April show that Wilson and nearby neighbors have all seen recent increases since March in unemployment rankings: Wayne County moved from No. 64 to No. 71 out of 100 counties while Nash County moved from No. 84 to No. 91, Wilson County moved from No. 93 to No. 96 and Edgecombe County moved from No. 96 to No. 98.

In fact, officials with the N.C. Department of Commerce touted reductions in 97 of the state’s counties in April from March, but local communities saw the increased rates. Wilson County went from 7.1 percent in March to 7.5 percent in April while Nash County went from 6.1 percent to 6.3 percent and Edgecombe County went from 7.7 percent to 7.9 percent.

This is a persistent issue that is admittedly frustrating and disappointing, and an unfortunate consequence of several factors specific to our region,” said Wilson Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Simons. “However, it’s important to not view these statistics in isolation, but in a larger context. So many things are trending positively for our community, including unemployment, if viewed over a longer time horizon.”

Unemployment rates from May will be released in mid-June.

Extra! Extra!

The Wilson Economic Development Council is one of the entities working to improve the local economy and members met Tuesday to discuss various issues.

Lantz said in addition to Miller’s investment at Hackney Industrial Park, infrastructure construction has kicked off at The Campus at 587. Ralph Hodge Construction Co. has started clearing land and installing water lines at the park formerly known as Woodard Parkway Industrial Park. She said the first phase of infrastructure is set to be complete by January and officials are working to recruit the park’s first tenant, but no announcements have been made.

The German grocer with plans to open a Wilson location next week announced recent accolades Lidl’s wine selection has garnered. The company received more than 100 medals each at the Indy International Wine Competition and the 2017 LA International Wine Competition, including several that were selected as the best in class and the Allini Prosecco DOCG that earned the title of Sparkling Wine of the Year.

“I am delighted by Lidl’s performance at the 2017 Indy International Wine Competition,” said Adam Lapierre, director of wine for Lidl US, who is a certified master of wine and has spent two years curating the store’s wine selection. “The sheer number of awards speak for themselves and its incredibly exciting to have some of the country’s leading experts respond so enthusiastically to our wine range before we even open our doors.”

Lidl US also announced a collaboration with fashion icon and designer Heidi Klum, who will launch an exclusive collection for the store’s non-food product selection that will be available in limited supplies. A timeline for Klum’s products was not announced, but officials said the affordably priced items will be part of Lidl Fashion Weeks.

“Lidl is known for making quality products at affordable prices and I’m proud to partner with them on this fashion collaboration,” Klum said in a press release. “I had so much fun designing the pieces in this collection and can’t wait for you to see it. I hope you love it as much as I do.”

Grocery officials will join local leaders at 7:40 a.m. June 15 for a ribbon-cutting followed by a four-day grand opening celebration with product samples and special offers at the store at the intersection of Raleigh Road Parkway and Airport Boulevard.

For deal-minded Wilsonians who can’t wait eight days, a grand opening with prizes and deals will take place at 8 a.m. Saturday at the new Dollar General at 306 Mutual Blvd. in Princeville. The first 50 adult shoppers will receive a $10 gift card to the store and the first 200 shoppers will receive a tote bag with samples and other giveaways.

The Wilson Chamber of Commerce is launching a crash course on programs and opportunities provided by the business advocacy group. Chamber 101 is a free event at 9 a.m. on June 16 open to members and non-members, but advance registration is required by calling 252-237-0165.

Got an idea for news to include in next week’s Main Street Minute? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 252-265-7821 or bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com.