North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2014

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CASE STUDY PACKAGED FOR DELIVERY Improved infrastructure reduces the distance between Tar Heel companies and their customers. B Y D . L AW R E N C E B I V I N S I t has been more than 125 years since the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad made tracks through Four Oaks, a bustling collection point for eastern North Carolina cotton and tobacco at that time. "The railroad set up their depot, and that set up the town," says Mayor Linwood Parker, a lifelong resident, local restaurateur and public official since 1977. Trains hauled away agricultural products and brought back finished goods from the North. Prosperity rolled in both directions until the railroad was run off its tracks by modern forms of transportation such as trucking. That left Four Oaks struggling. The Johnston County town of about 1,800 regained its economic footing by developing the 365-acre Four Oaks Business Park in 2008. Franklin Lakes, N.J.-based Becton, Dickinson & Co., which makes medical-technology products, opened a $38 million distribution center there in May 2012, employing 150 with plans to expand. "It's been transformative for the town," Parker says. Stores and restaurants opened, and developers are building a residential development near the park, which can accommodate about 3,500 workers near an Interstate 95 interchange. He expects other tenants to join Becton. "The park will be the railroad of the 21st century." The North Carolina transportation and logistics industry is a two-way street. It is an important part of the state's economy and offers companies advantages on the ground, in the air and on the seas. "North Carolina's position on the Eastern Seaboard makes it a natural distribution center," says George List, a civil-engineering professor at N.C. State University in Raleigh with expertise in transportation-system design and operation. Established metros in the Northeast as well as fast-growing markets in Georgia and Florida are within easy reach. "It makes sense for this to be the spot where you do transshipment." List is integrating transportation planning and economic development as a member of the state Logistics Task Force, which was assembled by former Gov. Four Oaks Challenge: North Carolina land and labor lend themselves to manufacturers, but they needed a way to get products to market. Solution: Improvements at rail yards, ports and airports make it easier to move more goods in less time and encourage new industries such as renewable fuels. Community colleges and universities prepare a logistics workforce for new technology and opportunities. Spirit AeroSystems ships the Airbus A350 wide-body jetliner fuselages it builds in Kinston, top, through Port of Morehead City for final assembly in France, below. N ORT H C A R OL I N A E CON OMI C D E V E LO P M E N T GU I D E 35

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