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Enviva, Severn Peanut projects close out funds

JACKSON – Two major economic development projects, that combined to far exceed the original number of employment opportunities, experienced their final close out of grant funding here Monday morning.

Enviva of Northampton County and Severn Peanut were each awarded Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) which added to the corporate investments made by those two companies in regards to expansion projects.

Enviva was the recipient of $930,000 of CDBG funds to aid in a project that extended public water and wastewater infrastructure from the Town of Gaston to the new pellet mill located on Lebanon Church Road.

In return, Enviva pledged the creation of a minimum of 62 full-time jobs, with at least 60 percent of those employed coming from low to moderate income households.

Northampton County Economic Development Director Gary Brown told the Commissioners on Monday that Enviva exceeded that requirement, creating 91 new jobs with 64 percent of those employees certified as residing in low to moderate income households.

Brown also reported that Enviva also exceeded their initial $68 million private investment in the new pellet mill.

“Their capital investment in this new facility totaled in excess of $81 million by the end of 2014,” Brown said.

The Commissioners also learned that the CDBG funds applied for by the county for the Enviva project were not all expended.

Mike Scott, who wrote the grant for Northampton County, told the board at Monday’s meeting that two factors played a significant role in lowering the $930,000 estimated costs.

“One, the construction/engineering bids ($502,002.34) came in much lower than originally anticipated,” Scott explained. “Secondly, a portion of the grant was also to be used to construct a fire suppression water storage tank at the facility. That part of the grant budget was saved when we learned that Enviva’s insurance carrier required the company to own that tank, meaning the company was required to pay for its construction.”

Thusly, the total expenditures for the Enviva project came to $530,334. That left a balance of $399,000 which the Commissioners, as part of their motion to close out the grant process, de-obligated. That money is returned to the granting agency.

In the Severn Peanut project, $630,000 was awarded by CDBG to aid that company in extending a natural gas service line from Conway to Severn. That added natural gas capacity resulted in the expansion of Severn Peanut’s production operation.

In return, Severn Peanut pledged the creation of a minimum of 42 full-time jobs with at least 60 percent of those employed coming from low to moderate income households.

“I’m here to report that Severn Peanut exceeded that pledge as they added 97 jobs with 74 percent of employees previously in the low to moderate income category,” Brown noted.

He added that total expenditures for the project were $629,711.85 of which $600,000 was used for construction and engineering purposes.

That left a balance of $288.15 which was de-obligated and returned to CDBG.

In separate votes, the Commissioners agreed unanimously to close out both projects, de-obligate the funds as noted, and authorize the proper county officials to execute all related documents.

In closing, Brown had kind words for Mike Scott.

“He is a grant writing wizard; I would strongly encourage the county using his services as they are needed going forward with any other grants we may choose to apply for,” Brown stated.

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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