Brunswick Corp. is closing its 200-employee Hatteras Yachts plant in Swansboro, a year after local boosters gave it an award for creating the jobs. But state officials say Brunswick, a Lake Forest, Ill., company with nearly $5.7 billion in revenue in 2007, will get more than $4.5 million in state and local incentives for opening another plant farther down the coast. “Regardless of what they do elsewhere, it’s going to be at our expense,” says Jim Reichardt, director of the Onslow County Economic Development Commission. “The whole thing has been a shocker to us.” Hatteras Yachts’ headquarters is in New Bern, about 30 miles away in Craven County, and Brunswick’s new plant, where hiring is under way, is in Navassa, west of Wilmington in Brunswick County.
Brunswick bought that plant in July from Rampage Yachts and pledged to create 858 jobs by March 2011, says Deborah Barnes, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Commerce. If it does, it will collect $4.36 million from the state’s Job Development Investment Grant fund, $200,000 from Brunswick County and $25,000 each from North Carolina’s Southeast, the partnership that promotes the region, and local recruiters. Eliminating the 200 jobs in Swansboro won’t count against it, Barnes says. “The grant was to build a different line of boats. Hatteras was never mentioned in it. It’s the same company but different jobs.” The Navassa plant will build yachts sold under the Bayliner, Maxum and Meridian brands.
In Swansboro, where a booster group called The Committee of 100 praised Hatteras Yachts last year for creating and keeping jobs there, critics say Brunswick should be rewarded only for net job creation, subtracting the 200 jobs eliminated there from those it will create in Navassa. Brunswick, they contend, has left Swansboro with another problem — credibility. The Hatteras Yacht plant was built by Chris-Craft in the early 1990s. It ran into rough financial waters and was sold to Tiara Yachts. That company also struggled and sold the 165,000-square-foot building to Brunswick’s Hatteras division in September 2005. “I’m afraid,” Reichardt says, “anybody else is going to be a little gun-shy if we try to get another boat builder in there.”
Maybe not. Brunswick spokesman Dan Kubera says the company hasn’t sold the Swansboro plant and might not. It eliminated the jobs and moved production to New Bern but could still find other uses for it. Besides, he adds, this was a business decision, not a reflection on Swansboro or the workers there.
Roanoke Rapids officials agreed to pay $750,000 to cut ties with performer Randy Parton, whom they hired in June 2005 to run an entertainment complex that they hoped would spark the city’s economy. Parton, younger brother of country superstar Dolly Parton, persuaded the city to borrow $21.5 million to build The Randy Parton Theatre. He was to perform there and manage it. However, attendance at the 1,500-seat theater has been disappointing since it opened in July. The city replaced Parton as manager in November with Boston-based UGL Unicco. It fired Parton as a performer in December, alleging that he had shown up drunk for a show, then dropped UGL in February. The payment to Parton bought out the remaining five years on his contract, which promised him at least $250,000 a year.