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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Taxpayer dollars and Covid-19 funds kickstart plans for business park in New Hanover County

The Blue Clay Business Park could house more than 800,000 square feet of marketable space. Owned by New Hanover County, the site has been spurred in its progression by the American Rescue Plan. (Port City Daily/Courtesy WBD)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Pieces of the puzzle are coming together for a county-owned business park on Blue Clay Road. Federal Covid-19 relief funds and taxpayer dollars are both at play as the county positions this property for emergence onto the industrial scene. 

Working toward the same goal is Wilmington Business Development (WBD), the nonprofit group with the goal of enticing businesses and jobs to the Cape Fear region. 

From the American Rescue Plan Act, the county will dedicate $3.6 million of its total $45.5 million in federal money for the installation of water and sewer infrastructure at the site, called the “Blue Clay Business Park.” 

This portion of the county’s spending was brainstormed alongside WBD. Scott Satterfield, the group’s CEO, said the county has previously asked WBD for help in making the 120-acre, county-owned site attractive to prospective business clients. 

“We have companies that have expressed some interest in being in that area, and potentially even on that site, but without that requisite infrastructure in place, it is a challenge to convince a company to locate there,” Satterfield told Port City Daily in March. “We always make the assumption that most of the places that our competition is showing companies probably has that infrastructure.” 

Two years ago, New Hanover County allocated $202,145 to WBD for “economic development services” and “economic development.” On top of that was a lump-sum payment of $60,000 for the Blue Clay Road project. Satterfield said that money was for site assessments and related activities. 

Last year, WBD took in $205,949 from New Hanover County. For this fiscal year (2021-22) the county appropriated $208,600 for the standard “economic development services” and “economic services” items, as well as an additional $50,000 for “competitive advantages and work serving as lead for the County in its goal of more product development, i.e., business parks, water & sewer extensions, etc., for a total of $258,600.” 

This year, Pender County’s allocated $160,00 for WBD in its budget, and City of Wilmington dedicated $102,000.

“Certainly everything our hands are on is competitive, for sure,” Satterfield told Port City Daily Tuesday. “Obviously, as you can imagine, all communities that are serious about economic development are involved in heated opportunities that are quite competitive.”

He added that approximately 800,000 square feet of new industrial space is either currently under construction or already completed across the Cape Fear region. The Blue Clay site would add another 875,000 square feet upon buildout, according to WBD. 

READ MORE: Speculative industrial developments on the rise after decade-long dry streak

“So we’ve got actual facilities, buildings to show clients, so that’s really bringing us a lot of activity across our region,” Satterfield said. 

According to the most recently available WBD tax filings, Satterfield’s total annual compensation was $434,129 as of June 2019. 

He hopes the water and sewer infrastructure, along with other necessary amenities, will be established at the Blue Clay Business Park by next summer. New Hanover County issued a request for qualifications for design services on the Blue Clay Road site last month, Wilmington Business Journal previously reported; the deadline was June 24. 

“We’re bullish on the greater Wilmington region’s position for the future,” Satterfield said.

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