TransPark expands, but overall investment still lags

By: Don Carrington - Carolina Journal

RALEIGH — A $55.7 million expansion by the N.C. Global TransPark’s anchor tenant would bring that company’s total investment to less than half of what then-Gov. Mike Easley promised in 2008.

Wichita, Kansas-based Spirit AeroSystems is the world’s largest independent supplier of commercial airplane assemblies and components, and it’s one of just a few tenants at the underperforming government-funded industrial park in Kinston.

The planned expansion, which Gov. Roy Cooper announced last week, brings Spirit’s total investment to about $262 million. Initial projections for Spirit were for $570.5 million and 1,031 jobs in six years, beginning in 2008.

A news release from Cooper’s office said Spirit had invested more than $206 million in the region, but it failed to concede that Spirit was far short of the original plan. Spirit’s North Carolina operation employs about 850 people from 22 surrounding counties, but the news release didn’t mention any additional jobs associated with the $55.7 million expansion.

The 2,500-acre Global TransPark is a division of the N.C. Department of Transportation. NCDOT spokesman Steve Abbott said Lenoir County provided a financial incentive for the expansion and, from what he understood, the arrangement did not include a promise to add a specific number of jobs.

“When taking into account Spirit’s contractors, vendors, and other full-time employees based at the GTP supporting Spirit’s operations, the number of employees working at Spirit’s Kinston site is above 800,” Spirit spokesman Sam Sackett said.

“There are always fluctuations from year to year depending on the production environment and needs of the business. While I don’t have an exact count today, I’m comfortable with the characterization used by the governor’s office talking about the economic impact Spirit’s operations have at the GTP, the county, and the state of North Carolina. We expect relatively stable employment at the site in the near future, with ongoing hiring to meet natural attrition rates,” he said.

The General Assembly in June ordered the North Carolina Global TransPark Authority to develop another strategic plan for its underperforming industrial park and deliver the plan to a transportation oversight committee by Jan. 15.

The GTP officially launched in 1992. It has failed to meet the forecast it would create 47,756 direct jobs and 101,242 jobs by 2010. The project has consumed between $200 million and $300 million in public funds since its inception.

Don Carrington is a staff writer for Carolina Journal.

Don Carrington

Carolina Journal