LELAND — Though tensions to re-brand the Leland Industrial Park have since cooled off, at one point, a Leland initiative put the town in a dicey position with the county.
Only 3-acres of a 630-acre industrial park are incorporated by the town of Leland. The rest lies in the county.
Despite not having jurisdiction over the park, Leland helped create a rebranding initiative and non-profit organization, the Leland Innovation Park, Inc., which is set to host its first board of directors meeting next month.
County park, town effort
The rebranding organization’s president, Gene Merritt, announced last week at a Leland Economic Development Committee meeting that he had smoothed things over with the county.
“I would like to be hired to negotiate between the Arabs and the Israelis based on my experience with dealing with the Brunswick County and Leland phenomenon,” Merritt said, which drew a laugh from committee members.
When Merritt’s non-profit was first unveiled at Leland Town Hall in late July, it was met with resistance from county stakeholders. At the meeting, Brunswick County Chairman Frank Williams said the group had misrepresented the level of the county’s involvement in rebranding efforts.
Though the town maintains it is not leading the rebranding initiative, Merritt said the whole movement was born out of Leland’s Economic Development Committee. Jackie Harlow, Leland’s tourism and marketing coordinator, and other staff members have since worked to help the group get ready for its official launch.
“I would have to give myself credit for negotiating those troubled waters and I have pleased the other side,” Merritt said. “I have calmed the savage beast.”
After working closely with “political leadership in Brunswick County,” Merritt said all necessary stakeholders will have a say in what he calls a “high-class homeowners association” for the park.
Williams said through conversations with Merritt, the county will have representation on the non-profit’s new board. Two spots will be filled by Brunswick Business and Industry Development and the North Brunswick Chamber of Commerce will be represented on the advisory committee.
“I have worked with Gene Merritt to come to a mutually agreeable resolution,” Williams wrote in a statement.
Merritt’s group has since launched its website and made contact with current business owners in the park.
At last month’s Economic Development Committee meeting, Leland’s economic and community development director Gary Vidmar said all businesses were in favor of moving forward with the group’s plans.
On Thursday, Merritt and the group’s assistant vice president, Bruce Mancinelli, discussed their specific rebranding plans. First, illuminated signs will be placed on Highway 74 and Mt. Misery Road. In working with property owners in the park, the group hopes to improve lighting and road safety, landscaping and drainage in the next six months.
“I see tree-lined streets, I see a movement to try to encourage businesses and landowners to invest more in landscaping,” Merritt said. “For the last 25 years, this place has been neglected.”
Update Oct. 30: This article has been updated to include comment from Frank Williams, who was not immediately available at the time of publication.
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