North Carolina farmers and agribusinesses are one step closer to having a cold storage facility at the Port of Wilmington. The Council of State approved a lease Feb. 5 that gives the go-ahead to a public-private partnership seeking to build the facility.
The partnership between the State Ports Authority and USA Investco is expected to create a state-of-the-art cold storage facility for near-vessel storage of fruits and vegetables, meat and other agricultural products, both imports and exports. This project is contingent upon the award of state and local incentives. Plans call for a 75,000-square-foot facility, expandable to 300,000 square feet, at an initial investment of $13 million. The project would create 110 new jobs while supporting the state’s No. 1 industry: agriculture.
“North Carolina exports more than $3 billion worth of agricultural products each year,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Upgrades to the Port at Wilmington will help our farmers and agribusinesses boost that number even higher. The cold storage facility is a vital piece of infrastructure that our producers have needed for a long time, and I’m happy that a public-private partnership will be able to make it a reality.”
Transportation Secretary Anthony J. Tata said: “We appreciate the support of the Council of State and the teamwork between the departments of Commerce, Agriculture and Transportation in advancing this important, job-producing project for the state of North Carolina.”
A modern cold storage facility at the Port of Wilmington is expected to generate substantial savings to the state’s agriculture industry by reducing logistics costs to and from ports. Once constructed, this facility would enable the state’s farmers to use the state’s ports, as opposed to neighboring facilities in Norfolk, Va.; Savannah, Ga.; and Charleston, S.C.
“The existence of a modern, industrial cold-chain distribution center located at one of our state’s ports provides a strategic competitive advantage over competing neighboring ports,” said Jeff Miles, acting executive director of the Ports Authority. “We are grateful for the support of the Council of State and collaborating agencies as we seek to make North Carolina’s ports the ports of choice for our state’s agricultural interests.”
The Ports Authority Board of Directors voted to approve the lease in a teleconference meeting in late January. The Ports must now solidify the final details of the operating agreement between the authority and the private partner, and other state and local agencies must consider and vote on incentives necessary for the project.
— Information from State Ports Authority