A once dirt floor with small sprigs of green weeds here and there is now concrete.
MaxPro, a window tint manufacturer, will begin operations in Columbus County by as early as March, county officials say.
The company that is expected to create more than 20 jobs is receiving a warm welcome by way of incentives and tax credits.
Rep. Dewey Hill announced last week that the N.C. Rural Center had approved a $312,000 building reuse and restoration grant for the project.
The Columbus County Economic Development office had applied for the funds on behalf of the firm that will go toward more than $2.5 million in upgrades to the facility.
Columbus County Economic Developer Gary Lanier looked forward to making the call to MaxPro officials to let them know the grant had been funded.
“We can always count on the N.C. Rural Center as a key partner in economic development,” Lanier said. “We can always count on Billy Ray Hall and his staff and we really do appreciate their help and support.”
“They were not guaranteed this grant but we said as a county we would do anything we could to help,” Lanier said.
While the building is getting an internal makeover, the south side of the Southeast Industrial Park will be getting quite a makeover, as well.
The extension of Industrial Boulevard, south of the Chadbourn Highway, will pave the way for more industry, officials hope.
The new road to be funded by a N.C. Department of Transportation grant will serve as an access road to the south side of the park, Lanier said.
State commerce grants in the amount of $120,000 will provide 12 inch water mains and sewer to the MaxPro building and future tenants of the south side of the park.
“The plan is to make the access to MaxPro come off of Industrial Boulevard south rather than Chadbourn Highway,” Lanier said. “We are going to basically mirror the road going onto the other side of the park.”
Lanier said the road construction is a project that will basically “open” up 160 to 170 acres of land available for development there.
“There is quite a big chunk available for development,” Lanier said. “This will help kind of get the ball rolling.”
Lanier said in the coming year county economic development board members will meet with commissioners to outline future plans for economic development in the county.
“We want to sit down with the boards and say where do we go from here?” Lanier said.
Lanier said the lack of vacant buildings on the market is one issue.
Another is fostering development in other areas of the county.
“There is a lot of growth in Leland in Brunswick County,” Lanier pointed out. He suggested with more advantageous tax incentives in Tier 1 Columbus County the eastern end of the county is a prime location for an industrial park.
“There are a lot who are interested in business here but live in Leland,” he said. “We have a big county and want to provide opportunity to all of our residents in all areas.”
In September, county commissioners approved a $160,420 grant package for MaxPro. It is payable over a five-year period.
The firm estimated at the time an initial investment of $5 million and the creation of 15 to 17 jobs once the plant is operational by the spring of 2013.
Lanier said 26 jobs are now more likely.
The start-up firm will specialize in manufacturing window films for a variety of applications, including automobile window tint, energy efficient window films for office buildings, industrial uses and other such applications.
MaxPro President Joseph Cobbe, of Wilmington, a semi-retired CPA, has been a founder of two other window film-manufacturing companies.
The News Reporter