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Eastern

Supporting troops will cost 

The addition of 11,477 Marines to Eastern North Carolina will pump billions of dollars into to the local economy. There’s just one problem: Bringing highways, schools, police and fire departments and other infrastructure up to speed will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and nobody’s sure where the money will come from. “We’re building this airplane as we fly it,” says Jay Bender, interim director of the federally funded Military Growth Task Force of North Carolina’s Eastern Region. “Unlike other growth communities, which have time to prepare, we have no time.”

That’s because people are arriving faster than expected. Pentagon officials say 9,000 additional Marines have poured in since the buildup began two years ago. Local authorities had expected a gradual increase, with the full number arriving after 2011. North Carolina’s Eastern Region, an economic-development agency, estimates that dependents, support personnel, businesses that cater to the military and others will add about 60,000 people to Craven, Onslow, Jones, Pender, Duplin, Pamlico and Carteret counties. The largest installation — Camp Lejeune in Onslow — has about 50,000 active-duty Marines. Air stations at Cherry Point and New River are adding personnel, too.

Bender, who’s also mayor of Pollocksville in Jones County, says the task force still is assessing what needs to be done. “Obviously, transportation, congestion, public safety and movement between the three bases — Cherry Point, Lejeune and New River — are going to require significant investment.” Though pressure on housing has eased — because of recession-slowed sales, inventory remains high — water and sewer systems will be strained. Improvements to major highways such as U.S. 17, U.S. 70 and N.C. 24 are expected to run into the hundreds of millions, and public safety will be a big expense. Standardizing communication systems will cost about $25 million.

Altogether, more than $3.5 billion in construction will be needed through 2012, Bender says, mostly at Camp Lejeune, where contractors paid by the federal government are building barracks, mess halls, training buildings, ranges and other expansion-related projects. It’s the nonmilitary infrastructure such as schools and roads that’s worrisome. “There’s little if any state money to help, and there’s little feeling among town councils and county commissions to pay for this,” Bender says. “But we don’t see this as a problem. It’s a challenge.”

Touch and go

Landing fighters at night on aircraft carriers might be easier than finding a place to practice it. The latest wrinkle in the 10-year search came last month when U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan told the Navy that Craven County would welcome a practice landing field. “Her thinking,” press secretary David Hoffman says, “was that they already have a lot of military there,” referring to the Marine air base at Cherry Point. Opposition, based on noise and danger of crashes, forced the Navy to abandon its first choice in Washington County (cover story, September 2005). Most of the 100-plus F/A-18 Super Hornets that would use it, which with their crews and maintenance have an annual economic impact of about $2 billion, would remain in Virginia Beach. The Navy has been eyeing three sites in southeastern Virginia and two in northeastern North Carolina — but not Cherry Point. A booster group for the base, Hoffman says, suggested Craven wants the field. That brought a quick rebuttal from County Commissioner Perry Morris, who told Hagan the group “has no authority speaking on behalf of Craven County.”

ST. PAULSPrestage Farms said it is laying off 212 employees at its local turkey plant, leaving it with about 300. The Clinton pork and poultry processor blamed reduced demand and higher costs.

TAR HEEL — Workers at the Smithfield Foods pork-processing plant ratified their first union contract with the Virginia-based company. The deal with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (cover story, April 2008) gives employees wage increases of $1.50 an hour over the next four years, improved sick leave and vacation benefits, paid funeral leave and a grievance process.

WILSONSandoz will close its local research-and-development center this month, putting 50 out of work. The generic-drug maker, a division of Switzerland’s Novartis, will move R&D to East Hanover, N.J. It still employs more than 400 here.

RAEFORDAlpla expects to employ 40 within three years making plastic bottles for shampoo and other products at a factory it will open by the end of 2009. The Austrian packaging company will occupy a 130,000- square-foot building on the Unilever campus here.

LAURINBURG — Akron, Ohio-based GOJO Industries kept open its QualPak factory, preserving 75 full-time jobs. It had planned to close the plant, which makes Purell, in June, but the swine-flu outbreak increased demand for the hand sanitizer.

GREENVILLE — Jim Turcotte, 61, retired after 35 years as manager of Pitt-Greenville Airport. Jerry Vickers, 58, who held that job eight years at Albert J. Ellis Airport, near Jacksonville, succeeded him.

KINSTONPioneer Hi-Bred opened a temporary research center in a factory owned by its parent, DuPont. The Des Moines, Iowa-based biotechnology company will test drought-resistant strains of corn and soybeans genetically engineered for the Southeast. It’s looking for permanent quarters and hasn’t determined how many it will employ, a spokesman says.