North Carolina Economic Development Guide


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24 N O R T H C A R O L I N A E C O N O M I C D E V E L O P M E N T G U I D E January and have a cold snap, the gas company calls and says, 'Sorry, we're going to have to cut your service.' Major industrial users are the fi rst to go, and if you're trying to recruit manufacturers, that's a serious liability." Without the new pipeline, it's uncertain if the region could land another Nucor, says Gary Brown, director of Northampton County's Economic Development Commission. "From everything I've heard from Piedmont Natural Gas, the end supplier for our area, that's the case." Piedmont's Trusty says the company can adequately supply existing customers, but another major industry could require a scramble. North Carolina is one of few U.S. states without redundant pipelines, says Duke's McGee. A sober reminder struck on an August night in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast. It didn't damage the Transco pipeline, but it shut down scores of natural-gas processing plants, wells and other components along the coast. Soon, North Carolina industries were hit with soaring prices and fl uctuating supply. Similar spikes occurred during the record cold of 2015. When Katrina hit, about 23% of U.S. natural gas came from the Gulf, Trusty says. Prices spiked from about $5 or $6 per thousand cubic feet to upward of $12 to $15. Now, he estimates about 10% of the East Coast supply comes from the Gulf as production has shifted north to the shale gas region of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. The buried Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will be 42 inches in diameter for about 330 miles from West Virginia through Virginia, will drop to 36 inches for its 186- mile Tar Heel segment. Northampton will get the greatest direct economic punch with about 22 miles of the line. It also will host a compressor station and a regional offi ce. Smithfi eld in Johnston County is also gaining a pipeline offi ce. "We've traditionally been an agriculture-based economy, but in the last 30 years or so, we've undergone industrial diversifi cation," says Brown, Northampton's economic director. About two dozen of the more than 50 permanent pipeline jobs will be set in Northampton, joining an industrial base that includes West Fraser Timber Co.,

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