Could Industrial Park be economic salvation for town?

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Mayor, officials agree on need. Plan for Aurora approved.

Martyn Johnson

AURORA – The light at the end of this small town’s very long, very dark economic tunnel may well be a 50-plus acre industrial park – envisioned four and a half years ago by Mayor Clif Williams, who was first elected in 2009.

Tuesday night, at a public hearing on the issue, elected town officials voted unanimously to proceed, using grant proceeds of almost $1 million. Approximately half will go to acquire what is now a big chunk of farmland inside the town limits.


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Remaining funds, according to Martyn Johnson, director of Economic Development for Beaufort County, will go toward development of infrastructure for the site – roads, water and sewer lines, and heavy duty utilities required for industry.

“The economy of Aurora is stagnating, and the population is declining,” said Johnson, who offered his blunt evaluation of the town’s current plight. “The person selling the land is cooperating with us, and we have a plan for 11 locations, but nothing is set in stone.”

Depending upon commitments, a slightly different and more optimistic option projects up to 17 sites in what will be known as the Aurora Industrial Park.

Johnson offered computer slides to illustrate current plans. One slide suggested: “The Park will host offices, laydown yards, and fabricating & repair facilities for businesses and mining contractors.”

Rebuffed several years ago when he failed to convince his colleagues that a different parcel should be rezoned to allow industrial development, Mayor Williams has been a man on a mission since then. He told a small group of citizens who attended the public session that several companies have shown interest in the site. Some, he said, are now contractors for Nutrien, a huge phosphate mine north of town.

“Up there all of that is considered to be a MSHA area (Mine Safety & Hazard Agency),” explained Williams, “but down here in this new industrial park the contractors will be under OSHA (Occupational Safety & Hazard Agency). So, this appeals to them.”

Johnson, who heads up economic development for Beaufort County, presented figures that projected
the town’s ad valorem tax base would increase by more than half after build-out out is complete – adding $76,000 annually to town coffers from estimated property tax revenues.

Funding for the park is comprised of a $200,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation; $750,000 grant from the Industrial Development Fund administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce; and, a possible loan from Beaufort County approved in March of this year.