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Economic Development - In Brunswick County

Design for the Brunswick County Northwest Water Treatment Plant upgrade and new pipeline are on schedule, according to County officials. That’s important, because water is a key to growth and development. Brunswick County in recent years has seen the largest population growth of all the state’s counties, according to the U.S. Census. It also ranked fourth in the nation for percentage growth for counties. WHQR continues its series on economic development, with a visit to Brunswick County.

(SFX – gulls on beach)

“I think Oak Island is one of the best places you could ever live. We've kept our taxes low….”

Jeff Winecoff loves Oak Island. He’s been here a long time. Today he’s Mayor Pro Tem on the Town Council.

“We wanted more development off the island on 211 in that part of the district of Oak Island. And we’re starting to see that benefit and grow.”

Oak Island, like most of Brunswick County, is growing. And it’s growing fast.

(Scroll down for Part 1 - Pender County)

New houses along the beach, new businesses inland, all adding up to a growing tax base. That’s a common theme for the entire county. Ann Hardy is County Manager.

We are very busy. A lot of a unique opportunities and a lot of challenges as well.”

“It's more weighted in the residential at this time, but I think that the commercial is coming in and we're certainly taking efforts to recruit industrial as well. I think it's just a matter of time before industry finds out how attractive our port is and the investments that have been made there as well as the recruitment of our two mega sites to our industrial parks.”

(SFX – Leland construction)

Residential means Leland. Home construction. Just across the river from Wilmington, Leland is booming.

“To say the least.”

Leland Senior Planner Ashli Pirozzi.

“I have been working with the town for about 11 years, and it's always been busy, but the past few years have been quite phenomenal. The town continues to build a team of people around us that can handle the business of that. So that's great. It's been a really exciting time to be here to learn a lot and to see all of the changes that are taking place.”

… and it’s hard work. Gary Vidmar is Leland’s Economic and Community Development Director.

“Well, it brings a number of challenges with respect to staffing requirements, with respect to infrastructure requirements, traffic, transportation, and managing that growth and the sustainment of that growth.”

Traffic is a concern, as is water.

Last month, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality issued a sewer line moratorium at Brunswick County’s northern wastewater treatment plant. The move will slow new development in the northern reaches of the county.

Growth means sewage. DEQ has a regulation whereby sewer treatment plants can't exceed 90% of their capacity. County officials say the moratorium should be lifted in September. Then new sewer line permits for developments will start flowing again.

The county is in transition. It was once primarily tourism – with places like Southport, Oak Island, Holden Beach and points south. Today it is more residential, and if county leaders have their way, more industrial and manufacturing will follow. Leland’s Gary Vidmar says business will come.

“You know, you need rooftops before you can attract businesses. So now we're attracting the businesses to serve our population.”

Vince Winkel, WHQR News.

Next week, WHQR looks at economic development in New Hanover County.