Bladen County officials recently recognized Four County EMC and North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives for their efforts in fostering economic and community development in the county. Bladen County Director of Economic Development Chuck Huestess cited a recent expansion by Smithfield Foods as an example of one of the many ways the electric co-op is making a difference.
Smithfield built a new distribution center and expanded its blast cell cold storage capabilities at its Bladen County processing facility. The cold storage technology is energy intensive, and the company’s healthy relationship with Four County EMC as the facility’s power provider was invaluable in finalizing the expansion, Huestess said.
“You can’t believe how important their input was in getting that cold storage up there,” he said.
The co-op also has secured $2.8 million through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) program that has supported a healthcare facility, industrial sites and other community development projects across the county.
Bladen County has four industrial “incubator” sites — with another two in the works — providing existing shell buildings where manufacturers can startup or expand. Companies utilizing the facilities include logistics companies, a robotics company, a winery, a gun plant, a machining plant and military contractors.
“There is really nothing more important than quality industrial buildings to attract and grow manufacturing in rural communities,” Huestess said. “The incubators have been a very powerful tool in helping start up and grow manufacturers in the county.”
On the community development side, Huestess praised the co-op for its support through programs such as Bright Ideas, Operation Roundup, education scholarships and other community and economic development endeavors.
“Everywhere you look in the community, they are there supporting the different community-building initiatives we have,” he said.