At the Town of Ayden, waiting around for growth isn’t the answer. That’s why town officials are on their feet in pursuit of an expansive business possibility they’ve carefully studied for feasibility and assembled partners to win — potentially rippling out hundreds of jobs and giant economic returns over a wide area. The goal is a food processing hub, and the town is leveraging internal and outside resources to make it happen. Already for the planned 24,000-square-foot facility, town officials via contract partners have developed a business plan and other supportive documents mapping out the potential. For a seven-county region, the economic impact is an estimated $920 million by 2025.
“Growing the State’s food processing industry is critical for economic growth,” the business plan emphasizes. “This project will propel economic growth in the Eastern region of the State,
complementing existing projects in the mountain and Piedmont regions of North Carolina.” The town has provided cash and in-kind support for the effort, while Pitt County has donated real estate. The town also established the Food Commercialization Center Committee with town elected officials and staff and regional agency representatives. Members are working to raise funds right now, including matching dollars for a federal grant application, the awarding of which could significantly offset construction costs. Support from the state and other partners is also sought.
The business concept involves contract processing of acidified foods like sauces, jellies and jams, with an array of additional services offered such as product development, quality control and distribution. It’s also envisioned as a hub or meeting place for the industry’s players, regulators and customers. Stakeholders have already expressed support for the plan, and this summer the planning committee will hold meetings to secure full commitments from anchor clients and tenants. If all goes well, parties may look to permitting by the end of the year, followed by outreach and the operational launch. “We want this to be unique, state-of-the-art, and a model for future growth,” the Greenville Daily Reflector newspaper quoted of Ayden Mayor Stephen Tripp. “We have the opportunity here to do something very special.”