Johnston County, N.C. – A $175,000 grant from the North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority is helping Atlantic Resources Incorporated consolidate and expand its operations in the Town of Smithfield. The homegrown Johnston County company, which designs and installs industrial systems for major corporations in the county and beyond, will add 35 jobs to its existing workforce under the project.
Brian Barefoot, vice-president of Atlantic Resources, first toured the nearly 90,000- square-foot building on Smithfield’s South Bright Leaf Boulevard in early January of this year. “It was raining that day, and we got the full effect of the roof leaking,” Barefoot recalls. His company closed on the property, which had been vacant for 20 years, in August.
Renovation efforts include upgrades to electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, as well as the up-fitting of new office space. The total cost of the renovation will be nearly $403,000. “We’ll use the state grant to put in the warehousing and office portion of the facility,” Barefoot says. He expects the work to be complete by June of next year.
Smithfield attorney Allen Wellons, chairman of the Johnston County Economic Development Advisory Committee, says the project underscores the need for creativity and public-private collaboration for job creation in today’s economy. “This project showcases the positive things that happen when state and local governments work together to provide a conducive environment for small-business growth,” says Wellons, a former state senator.
The Town of Smithfield is the formal applicant for the state grant funds, which are administered by the N.C. Department of Commerce’s Rural Economic Development Division. The Building Reuse and Renovation program accepts proposals from county and municipal governments who apply on behalf of arriving and expanding businesses. Atlantic Resources plans to hire designers, electrical foremen, controls managers, design engineers, welders, graphic designers, electricians, technicians, a computer numerically controlled (CNC) operator and an administrator as part of its expansion. The company, which Barefoot co-founded in 2010 with his wife, Tonya, already employs about 25 workers in Johnston County.
Atlantic Resources provides a wide array of machining, fabrication and safety solutions to customers in agribusiness, manufacturing, marine trades and other industries. Caterpillar Inc.’s operations in Clayton and Sanford, as well as GE’s nuclear energy and aviation units in Wilmington, are among the major names utilizing the firm’s services. Novo Nordisk and Smithfield Foods are also customers of Atlantic Resources.
Ordinarily, funding programs of Commerce’s Rural Division target projects in less populous Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties. But Johnston County’s Tier 3 status didn’t disqualify the 55-year-old property because the site sits inside a rural census tract. State statutes define rural census tracts as areas with population densities of fewer than 500 people per square mile as measured by the latest 10-year federal census.
“This project is somewhat unusual for our Building Reuse program because it does take place in a Tier 3 county,” explains Dr. Patricia Mitchell, assistant secretary for rural economic development at the North Carolina Department of Commerce. “Our rules are flexible enough to allow for exciting opportunities that can arise in communities like Smithfield and at companies like Atlantic Resources.”
The Town of Smithfield’s Building Reuse grant was one of ten approved by the North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority at its meeting on October 22nd. The Authority meets six times a year to review, approve and monitor requests for building reuse funds as well as Economic Infrastructure program grants, Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account projects and federal CDBG economic development funds.
“I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity for Smithfield and our community,” says Smithfield Town Councilman Perry Harris. “This revitalization of one of Smithfield’s long-dormant buildings shows how desirable Smithfield and Johnston County is to industry and should be a catalyst for future opportunities.”
Chris Johnson, director of the Johnston County Economic Development Office, says Smithfield municipal officials deserve great credit for their success in tapping state Building Reuse funds and facilitating job creation. “Companies like Atlantic Resources are the backbone of our local economy, and it’s great to see them be able to take a vacant building and re-shape it into the backdrop for their next phase of growth.”
The Johnston County Economic Development Office (JCEDO) facilitates value-added interaction between government, education and the private sector in encouraging and promoting job creation and economic investment in Johnston County. A unit of county government, JCEDO collaborates with local, regional and statewide partners and allies in providing confidential location assistance to businesses and technical support to the county’s 11 municipalities. Its menu of services includes customized digital mapping, labor and wage analysis, site readiness assistance and incentive packaging.
For additional information, contact:
Chris Johnson, Director