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REGIONALREPORT Eastern

GTP’s Fain attempt at success 

Jim Fain doesn’t have big shoes to fill. The last president of N.C. Global TransPark was the ex-CEO of a bankrupt airship manufacturer, and he left about eight years ago. But Fain, the former secretary of commerce recently hired as president of the 2,500-acre aviation-themed industrial park in Kinston, is still undertaking a big task: Bring credibility to an enterprise with a flighty past.

Fain led the commerce department from 2001 until 2008, is respected by legislators and, as a former banker, brings expertise to the TransPark’s troubled finances. Many credit him with luring Wichita, Kan.-based Spirit AeroSystems Inc., a global aircraft-parts maker and the park’s only major tenant, to the TransPark in 2008. “He’s part of some good, serendipitous things coming together,” says N.C. Transportation Secretary Gene Conti, chairman of the Global TransPark Authority.

The TransPark does look ready for a fresh start. It had languished after its 1991 creation despite receiving more than $250 million in tax money and was often targeted by legislators who wanted to kill it. But Spirit arrived four years ago promising more than 1,000 well-paying jobs. Then, in June, the General Assembly passed a bill giving the TransPark relief from its worst debt, nearly $40 million borrowed in 1993 from the state Escheat Fund. Conti says Fain “spent a fair amount of time” lobbying for it.

The new bill also makes the TransPark Authority subject to the direct supervision of Conti. “I’ve always felt there was logic to the TransPark being organized under the Department of Transportation,” Fain says. For example, Spirit will depend on a 5.7-mile, $14.3 million rail spur DOT is building that will connect the TransPark to a main line in Kinston and then to the state port at Morehead City.

Fain hit the ground running by attending the Paris Air Show, where he courted Spirit four years ago, in June and plans to assist “follow-on investors” moving to eastern North Carolina to support Spirit. “The success of the agency in creating jobs isn’t limited to just what’s on our property,” Fain says.

But he will become the TransPark’s second six-figure executive, earning $144,000 for his first year with mutual options to extend his tenure. Executive Director Darlene Waddell makes $115,000. The TransPark’s proponents are hoping that the invest- ment in the former commerce secretary is the ignition that finally helps the place take off.

 


LAUREL HILLMohawk Industries plans to close its plant here this month, with 197 employees losing jobs. The Calhoun, Ga.-based carpet maker blamed the poor housing market.

ROCKY MOUNTN.C. Senate leader Phil Berger appointed Raleigh businessman Art Pope to the board of Golden LEAF, the nonprofit that disburses the proceeds from half the state’s share of the national tobacco settlement. Two think tanks linked to Pope, president of Variety Wholesalers, have been critical of Golden LEAF, which they say makes grants based on Democratic political influence.

TURKEYBay Valley Foods, which makes pickles and other food, plans to close its distribution center here by the end of September, letting go 48 employees at the Sampson County plant. The Plattville, Wis.-based company is outsourcing the work to a new location in Kings Mountain.

GREENVILLE — Tom Minges, chairman and CFO of Minges Bottling Group, died at 56 from an apparent heart attack. The company, which employs about 250, hasn’t announced a replacement.

DUBLIN —  A state auditor’s report raised questions about Bladen Community College’s bookkeeping, finding mistakes involving nearly $2.3 million. It cited a lack of oversight of banking transactions, a faulty computer security system and improper use of state money to fund faculty bonuses. State officials attributed the mistakes to sloppiness rather than malfeasance.

MOYOCK   A federal judge dismissed Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater Worldwide, from a lawsuit filed by two former employees that alleges the company, now known as Xe Services, cheated the government on bills submitted for protecting government employees in Iraq and Afghanistan. The judge ruled there is no evidence Prince participated in or had knowledge of any false billing. He is no longer associated with the private-security company.