Research Center moves one step closer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 11, 2004

JACKSON – Northampton County Economic Development Director Gary Brown is excited about the future of the county and with a recently signed development agreement for the site located off I-95 near Garysburg that may soon house the prospective Advanced Vehicle Research Center, the future is looking brighter everyday.

The agreement, which was entered into on September 1, is a three party deal between the county, North Carolina Northeast Economic Development and a company by the name of TGI-USA, Inc. represented by Richard D. Dell, and will allow money from the N.C. General Assembly to be used for project development.

&uot;This is not a done deal yet, but it’s a good first step,&uot; said Brown speaking of a $200,000 appropriation from the General Assembly for use in the pursuit of structuring, organization, engineering designs, marketing plans and other activities associated in the development of the recently acquired property located off I-95 in Northampton County.

&uot;While we enjoyed strong support in both the House and Senate, we didn’t realize, until the day before they were getting ready to adjourn for the session, that an adjustment of tax credit and tax deduction formulas were needed as related to state and federal taxation and we didn’t have the week it would have taken to correct that,&uot; said Brown.

Crediting the efforts of North Carolina Senator Robert Holloman, he added, &uot;Senator Holloman did some heavy lifting to secure this money to carry this project until the upcoming 2005 session of the General Assembly, at which time we will revisit the larger financing package.&uot;

The proposed new business may bring up to 350 new jobs to the county over a 10-year period.

The proposed facility is very unique. It’s designed as a comprehensive testing facility for vehicles and automotive-related products, including research on utilizing non-fossil fuel technology as the nation moves towards reaching a goal of energy independence.

At the Center, automotive components such as chassis, drive trains, powerplants, generators, body components, electronic systems, guidance appliances and safety equipment will undergo rigorous testing procedures.

The proposed Research Center will feature a 2.5-mile &uot;smart highway&uot; test track (with multiple surface types), dynamometer and wind tunnel facilities as well as laboratory, machining, bench-testing and emissions monitoring facilities.

The Center will be located on a 625-acre site.

&uot;This whole project has great potential to be a magnet for attracting other auto-related industries to the region,&uot; said Brown. &uot;It also demonstrates the remarkable vision on the part of the state’s legislative leadership, setting the stage for re-development and economic success in rural North Carolina.

&uot;They’re marketing strategic investments to enable growth and development in high wage and high tech industries in those portions of the state that have historically lagged behind urban areas.&uot;

Brown described the financial backing as the &uot;seed money&uot; necessary to jumpstart increased growth and economic development.&uot;

What makes the Center even more attractive is that it has the capability of providing an estimated 6,000 other jobs statewide in ancillary industries. Officials touting the Center are hopeful that it will act as a magnet, capturing the attention and the imagination of automotive industry related companies who, judging on past history, have bypassed North Carolina and located their businesses in other states.

Operational costs of the Research Center will come from user fees (auto manufacturers), research contracts with public and private sector entities and federal grants from the Department of Energy and Department of Transportation.

A tremendous amount of federal grant funds are available and programmed over the next six years related to alternative fuel research and development.

The proposed Research Center is similar in concept to one constructed in the United Kingdom for the British auto industry as well as an American facility located at Ohio State University.

&uot;This whole thing is a process. First you crawl, then you walk, then you run and it appears as if we are past the crawling stage, which is a positive move in the right direction,&uot; Brown concluded.