New Hanover County leaders have made economic development a priority. I can point to partnerships in the past 18 months that have led to more than 500 new private-sector jobs being announced and $150 million of private investment that keeps the local tax base healthy and the economy growing. Today, another huge announcement, and the largest in recent times, came to the community. Vertex Rail Technologies is poised to hire more than 1,300 employees (almost all of whom will be local hires) and invest between $55 and $60 million to fabricate railcar tankers with many of the out-take contracts delivered through the assets owned by the NC Department of Transportation and the Port of Wilmington. The investment, as announced by Vertex, is expected to spur more than $1 billion (with a B) of activity across the regional economy.
If we want more jobs and more investment, we need to place our attention on economic development infrastructure. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority was the first of 3 parties that has and are agreeing in the next week to extend a sewer force main under the Cape Fear River, which will lead to the capacity to extend water and sewer along the US 421 corridor – (yes it’s true, for the most part that important service is not available along our primary industrial corridor). The New Hanover County commission and the Wilmington city council will consider their roles in this tri-party agreement November 17 and November 18 respectively. Making capacity available along US 421 is a critical step and public investment to ensuring more private-sector jobs and more private investment happens across New Hanover County.
Announcements that demonstrate expansion for existing businesses such as Castle Branch, GE, Live Oak, and Fortron, and now the announcement of a new business partner (Vertex Rail Industries) in our community don’t happen by accident. They happen because the community has demanded attention be placed on job creation and local leaders are cultivating the opportunities that bring more and better jobs to our region.