By Nicholas Aziz
A drywall manufacturing company will reopen its Wilmington plant after receiving local economic incentives and overcoming some environmental concerns over chemical releases.
After both the Wilmington City Council and New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved economic incentives, the National Gypsum Company said it will reopen the plant it closed in 2009 during the recession, bringing in 51 jobs and $25 million in investments. The five-year incentive packages approved by the local boards total $580,000.
Despite some environmental concerns over the release of formaldehyde into the air, both the city council and county board approved the incentives. The company acknowledged that there would be some trace chemical release into the air, but the levels are well below the 8.77 tons of formaldehyde emissions the N.C. Division of Air Quality permitted for the site.
Philip White, a resident of Wilmington, raised concerns about the long term detrimental effects of the chemical release and how it could compound on top of other industries, including the ongoing issue of contamination of the local water supply from the release of the chemical compound known as GenX. Concerns regarding formaldehyde include throat spasms and accumulation of fluid in the lungs, with repeated exposure leading to asthma and bronchitis.
John King, vice president of manufacturing at National Gypsum, touted the economic benefits the company would bring to the area. He said the investment by the company would improve rail access and allow it to become more cost competitive. The company makes white drywall, mold and moisture resistant wallboard, and a commercial product that goes on the exterior of buildings.
Several local business advocates spoke in favor of the incentives, including Tyler Newman, president/CEO of Business Alliance for a Sound Economy, Cameron Moore, executive officer of Cape Fear Builders Association and Esmond Anderson, director of construction, Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity.