Monday, June 23, 2008
Last week I had the opportunity to visit the Global TransPark - sometimes described as the greatest boondoggle in North Carolina history. The idea for the TransPark developed during the 1980s, when I was in Planning School. Located in Kinston, NC, the TransPark is intended to be a just-in-time manufacturing park with an airport and long runway for immediate shipping. 2,400 acres with acompanying roads, water, and electricity await development. Over the past 20 years the State has invested over $125 million in the project. The goal was to revitalize the economy of a region with a declining population.
The problem is that businesses have not bitten and virtually zero new jobs have been created. As I drove around the TransPark I could see very little signs of life. Approximately 3 smaller companies (apparently relocated from other parts of the state) and a couple of government facilities. Large empty lots and beautiful highways and signage. But no people.
Nobody seems to be asking what went wrong. In fact more investment is on the way. Hope is riding on an announcement that Spirit AeroSystems of Kansas will build a new manufacturing facility on site that will employ up to 1,000 workers. The company will receive incentives totaling $180 million from the State. And the Golden Leaf Foundation (tobacco settlement money) is kicking in another $100 million. That's a big investment in one company, and a big chunk of Golden Leaf's total endowment of $700 million.
The funny thing is that Spirit is not planning on shipping any of its products by air. Airbus fuselages will go out down the river by boat.