ROCKINGHAM — Nearly five years after its official announcement, one local manufacturing plant is only weeks away from operation.
County Manager Bryan Land and Economic Developer Martie Butler told the Richmond County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that the Enviva wood pellet plant should begin production very soon.
Butler said she didn’t have an exact date, but it would be “coming in the very near future.”
Company and county leaders announced the plant was coming to Richmond County in September of 2014.
The Richmond County plant was one of several facilities the Maryland-based company built in North Carolina, in addition to one in Sampson County and a facility at the port in Wilmington.
The company also has facilities in Hertford and Northampton counties, as well as in Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.
Land said construction is winding down and the first shipment of raw material arrived at the facility last week and cited company officials saying the first pellets will be produced in the first two to three weeks.
The first unit train of pellets is expected to be delivered to the Wilmington port around Sept. 1, he added.
“We are thrilled to have Enviva operating in Hamlet and Richmond County,” Land said. “The facility will add over $120 million to our tax base and over 80 high-paying jobs averaging over $41,000 annually.
The county manager said he also recently attended a kick-off event hosted by Enviva for its employees and families to celebrate the grand opening.
Another local manufacturer is seeking employees a month after moving to the county.
Volumetric Building Companies, which held a family fun day/announcement event on June 17, is holding a job fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on July 18.
The company is looking for those skilled in carpentry, plumbing, maintenance, electrical, drywall finishing and other areas of construction for its facility in Hamlet.
Anyone wishing to attend the job fair must register with the N.C. Works Center in Rockingham to receive a referral.
The company manufactures modular multi-family housing, Butler said before showing a video from last month’s event.
VBC was awarded a Job Investment Development Grant from the state, which will reimburse the company up to $2,179,000 over the next 12 years, according to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office. However, those payments are dependent on the company meeting job creation and investment targets.
In those 12 years, the state is expecting an economic impact of $252 million from VBC Manufacturing-Hamlet.
“A JDIG is the largest grant the state of North Carolina gives to local companies,” Butler told commissioners. “(The state) will not incent a company for job growth unless it is at or above the average wage for a community.”
The company will be bringing an additional 130 jobs, paying an average of $39,000 per year, to the now-former Ritz-Craft facility – as well as retaining many of the 70 current employees- and will invest more than $12 million in the area over the next three years.
Following a pair of public hearings, commissioners approved local incentives for VBC and Impact Plastics, which announced in April plans for expansion and the addition of 30 new high-paying jobs.
In 1997, commissioners approved a tax-incentive policy on a tiered system based on the amount of investment the company makes which refunds companies a percentage of its taxable income, Butler said.
Butler added that the county was able to help local companies secure state grants: around $230,000 for Impact Plastics; and more than $3 million total for VBC.
“That’s a big part of what we do here in Richmond County … we work with these companies and with the state … to help them grow here ,” she said. “These companies cannot always get that funding depending on where they’re at, so we’re very proud of the amount of money were able to get our local industries.”
MORE TO COME?
Although she couldn’t be specific, Butler also hinted at future economic development announcements.
Commissioners approved Butler’s request to move forward with an application for a Rural Building Reuse grant.
“We have done several of these in the past,” she said. “This is for another local industry that is looking to expand.”
Butler added that she could not yet reveal the company’s name.
Land said that the county’s shell building project is nearing completion.
“I was out there earlier today,” he said. “Final interior work – painting, flooring, electrical and lighting – will be starting prior to the end of the month. Final grading, stonework and paving should be completed within the next 45 days, as well.”
Land added that Southern Builders “feels confident” the shell building will be completed by the end of August.
Butler said she and Land have been meeting with several clients, had visits from representatives of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and other companies expressing interest.
Both Butler and Land said they’re confident a company will be ready to move in prior to completion.
“That’s a feat I’m extremely pleased with,” Land added.