Beaufort County considers shell building to attract business

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WNCT) – Although it has been years since the Great Recession, it’s still having an impact here in the East.

Because of that, Beaufort County leaders are hoping to attract new businesses by going ahead and starting the construction process for them.

The county, with its gorgeous waterfront views, is a popular place to live and do business.

Martyn Johnson, the director of Beaufort County Economic Development, said the county’s popularity is a blessing and a curse.

“For the good, we have no buildings available for clients to come in to look at, to physically see, to touch,” said Johnson. “And that’s good because all the buildings have got employees in them and manufacturing products. It’s bad from my point of view because I’ve got nothing to sell.”

Johnson estimates nearly 75 percent of companies are looking to set up shop in a pre-existing building.

“They kind of know what they want, and they want to act immediately,” Johnson said. “They don’t want to take the time to say, ‘OK yes, we want to build.’”

That’s why the county is trying to get one step ahead.

Along with a group called the Committee of 100, they’re looking to build an industry-ready shell building at the city-county industrial park.

“Basically, the industry-ready building will save about six months in terms of if somebody wants to take that building in terms of investigating the land, permitting (and) construction,” said Johnson.

Starting at around 22,000 square feet, the shell building could be expanded and customized by any company that takes over.

Johnson said he hopes it’s an idea that will catch on.

“There’s nothing like momentum,” said Johnson. “Basically the old saying: ‘success breeds success.’ So if we can show we’re successful with this then hopefully people will sharpen their pencils and think about investing in the county.”

Plans for the project are not final. There will be a public hearing at the next Beaufort County commissioners meeting on March 6.

If approved, construction could be finished by the end of the year.

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