Gov. McCrory, area officials break ground on port’s cold storage facility

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Gov. Pat McCrory, center, helps state and local officials break ground at the future site of the Port of Wilmington's cold storage facility Tuesday. Photos by Hilary Snow.
Gov. Pat McCrory, center, helps state and local officials break ground at the future site of the Port of Wilmington’s cold storage facility Tuesday. Photos by Hilary Snow.

Gov. Pat McCrory and state and local officials joined together at the Port of Wilmington on Tuesday to break ground on what is expected to become an economic driver for the state–and a boon for the local job market.

The groundbreaking ceremony marked the construction start for a long-planned cold storage facility at the port. Work on the 101,537 square foot building–with a total of 200,000 square feet of expansion space–is expected to get underway in the next several weeks and be completed within nine months, according to Chuck Schoninger of USA Investco, the Wilmington-based real estate development group that partnered with the N.C. Ports Authority on the public-private project.

The project got the go-ahead from the N.C. Council of State in 2013.

Ports authority CEO Paul Cozza said once open, the cold storage facility will increase the Wilmington port’s ability to expand its imports of produce, pork and poultry products and exports of seafood, fruits and vegetables.

An artist rendering of the planned 101,537 square foot facility.
An artist rendering of the planned 101,537 square foot facility.

“We pride ourselves on customer service,” Cozza told the crowd of about 100 people Tuesday. “We want to be a conduit of business, an accelerator of the economy.”

The facility will also lower costs by streamlining services, he added, and will allow the Port of Wilmington to compete with ports in neighboring states that already have such onsite capabilities.

And, ports authority chairman Tom Adams said, it will create more than 100 new jobs.

“Our mission is to create jobs and help build the economy,” Adams said, noting that the new addition to the 70-year-old port would help propel its future over the next 70 years.

Preparing for the future, McCrory said, is the push behind the new cold storage facility.

“If we are stagnant, we lose. If we anticipate as opposed to reacting, we win. That is what this is all about,” he said. “Now is the time to move to continue to repair and upgrade this port…Once you react, you’ve waited too long.”

Hilary Snow is a reporter for Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com