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Eastern

The bases are loaded by military transfers 

Imagine a city the population of Greenville — about 75,000 — springing up in Eastern North Carolina in the next three years. That’s what military buildups in the region will amount to, and while one expert calls base expansions “the biggest economic-development announcement in 40 years,” the news has sobering consequences.

“In the long term, the growth will be extraordinarily good for Eastern North Carolina in terms of quality of life and the economy,” says Al Delia, president and CEO of North Carolina’s Eastern Region. “But there’ll certainly be some short-term pain through pressure on the roads, highways, education and the infrastructure. If we had a bazillion dollars right now, we couldn’t get them built in time.”

The population in and around Cumberland County will grow by as much as 40,000 — about 9,000 troops, their dependents, Army civilian employees and people filling new jobs of vendors and businesses supporting them — and pump an additional $1 billion a year into the local economy. But the growth will create the need for five new schools, just part of a $276 million shortfall for capital improvements, says Paul Dordal, a retired general who heads a regional task force dealing with base realignments and closings. The Army is transferring a military command from Georgia, which will give Fort Bragg more generals than any place outside the Pentagon. The new headquarters, where billions in military spending will be vetted each year, will attract local offices of some of the nation’s largest military contractors, further boosting the base’s financial firepower. Its economic impact already has increased from about $2.7 billion in 2005 to nearly $3 billion last year. About 43,000 soldiers are stationed there.

Some 11,400 Marines are moving to Camp Lejeune, Cherry Point and New River, bringing with them an estimated 9,500 dependents, 4,000 civilian contractors and 15,000 people to fill jobs their presence will create. About 47,000 Marines and sailors are now based in Onslow and Craven counties. A new wing of airborne refueling tankers recently was assigned to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro.

The buildup will create a building boom that will total $7 billion statewide by 2011, but one aspect of military largess the state has lacked will remain lagging. Defense contracts performed here bring in only about $3 billion a year, about 1% of the total. “We’ve still got work to be done in that area,” says Scott Dorney, executive director of the N.C. Military Business Center in Fayetteville. “People ask me all the time why we don’t get more, and it’s simply because we don’t have a history of big, industrial companies in the state.”

WILMINGTON — GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas plans to add 900 jobs during the next five years, bringing employment to about 3,150. The average annual salary of the new jobs will be about $85,000, more than double the New Hanover County average. The joint venture of Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric and Tokyo-based Hitachi designs nuclear reactors.

KINSTON — Sanderson Farms will open a $126.5 million processing plant, feed mill and hatchery in late 2009. It will employ about 1,500 within a year. The Laurel, Miss.-based company is the nation’s fourth-largest poultry processor.

FAISON — Fibrowatt plans to build a plant that would burn poultry waste to produce electricity. If approved by the state, it would employ about 100. The Langhorne, Pa.-based company hopes to begin production in 2011.

LAURINBURG — Eaton will close its golf-grip factory by the end of the year, idling more than 75. About 35 sales and marketing jobs will remain. The Cleveland-based industrial conglomerate is moving production overseas.

BEAUFORT — Nelson and Dianna Paul of Raleigh won state approval to build three large wind turbines, but they still need permission from Carteret County and the Federal Aviation Administration. They plan to sell electricity to Raleigh-based Progress Energy.

WILMINGTON — New Hanover County commissioners offered $4.2 million in incentives for a cement factory that could bring 160 jobs. Norfolk, Va.-based Titan America hadn’t made a decision in early May.

CAMDEN — Camden and Currituck counties each will spend $125,000 for public relations and other services to block the Navy from studying a tract in Camden County for a practice landing field. The Navy also wants to study a site in Gates County and three in Virginia.

EMERALD ISLE — Sandbags protecting five houses on the west side can stay in place two more years, says the state Coastal Resources Commission. Most sandbags along the coast must be removed this year.