Northampton secures EDA grant

Published 10:29 am Wednesday, September 28, 2011

JACKSON – A federal grant in excess of $2 million will assist Northampton County in building infrastructure for a major company that has announced it will invest in the county.

Northampton officials learned late Monday that the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has awarded a $2,002,088 grant to the county for water and wastewater infrastructure improvements needed to serve the Northampton Commerce Park and the proposed Enviva LP wood pellet manufacturing operation. The project is expected to create 60 jobs and generate $60 million in private investment, according to grantee estimates. Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank made the announcement.

“The Obama administration is committed to job growth and business development and this grant will fund vital infrastructure needed in Northampton County,” Blank said. “This EDA grant will advance Northampton’s renewable resources sector to meet domestic and global energy demands.”

Northampton County Manager Wayne Jenkins said he was thrilled to hear the news of the federal grant.

“This is an indication that our elected officials in Washington are connected with rural America,” Jenkins said. “This is an excellent example of government officials at all levels working together in unison and partnership to invest in our communities, growing our communities and making them stronger. We appreciate the hard work of all our officials, starting right here with our county commissioners all the way up to our state and federal elected officers.”

U.S. Sen. Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) applauded Northampton County for the $2 million investment award it will receive for green industry infrastructure in the county’s Commerce Park.

“This announcement is outstanding news for Northampton County’s economy,” said Hagan. “The jobs created through this project are jobs of the future, and I will continue to support important investments that propel economic development in our communities and create jobs for North Carolinians.”

Jenkins said the EDA grant will help the county provide core infrastructure (water and sewer) to the Enviva site located within the county’s Commerce Park, located off Lebanon Church Road near Gaston.

“We welcome Enviva to Northampton County,” Jenkins said. “Their $60 million investment plus offering up to 60 new jobs are a tremendous shot in the arm for our county.”

Northampton officials are seeking an additional $930,000 from the state in Community Development Block Grant-Economic Development funds. They have contracted with a grant writing agency (PRO, at a cost of $3,800) to help secure that grant.

Jenkins said the CDBG-ED grant, if awarded, will also help offset the cost of the infrastructure needs for the Enviva project. The cost associated with the project’s infrastructure is estimated at $3.6 million.

Meanwhile, Jenkins said county officials are scheduled to meet Friday with a potential granting agency in an effort to secure $750,000 to construct an industrial access road for the planned Enviva wood pellet facility. The exact cost of the access road has yet to be determined, but a preliminary estimate is that it could cost up to $750,000.

As far as Northampton’s local commitment to the Enviva project, Jenkins said part of the economic development agreement calls for the conveyance of 122.2 acres of county-owned property within the Commerce Park to the company. Enviva also qualifies for the Northampton County Capital Investment Creation Grant Program, offered through the county’s Economic Development office. Jenkins said the amount of that grant hinges on the size of the company’s overall investment and the number of jobs created.

Enviva LP announced in early August its plans to construct a wood pellet manufacturing mill, with an annual production capacity of 400,000 metric tons, in the Northampton County Commerce Park. The company, which will also open a similar plant in Ahoskie, manufactures, markets and distributes high-quality industrial wood pellets for alternative fuel use to domestic and foreign markets, including the European Union.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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