Local News

Firm Closes Global TransPark Operation

Posted February 4, 2008 4:50 p.m. EST
Updated February 9, 2008 12:57 a.m. EST

— A company that state officials touted as a key component to the growth of the embattled Global TransPark has shut down after benefiting from millions of dollars in public and nonprofit support.

Workhorse Aviation Manufacturing LLC opened in December 2005 and planned to employ 50 people to make components for aging military and civilian aircraft. When Workhorse's government contracts fell through, Global TransPark officials canceled the company's lease on a 27,500-square-foot building late last year.

But that was after Workhorse had already received more than $2 million in local and state support to set up shop in Kinston.

The Global TransPark Authority spent $1.5 million to build the plant that Workhorse leased, and a foundation affiliated with the Global TransPark provided more than $200,000 in rent subsidies.

Golden LEAF, a Rocky Mount-based foundation that uses money from the state's portion of the national tobacco litigation settlement to fund economic development projects, supplied the company with $500,000 in loans through the nonprofit Neuse River Development Authority.

Workhorse also received $25,000 from the One North Carolina Fund, a business recruitment fund used by the state Department of Commerce, and $11,600 from Lenoir County. The company would have qualified for another $75,000 from One North Carolina and $17,400 from the county if it had met performance goals.

The company's situation is the latest setback for the Global TransPark, which likewise has received millions in state support since the early 1990s to attract jobs to eastern North Carolina, but which has always struggled to take off.

"It's been a lot of money and with precious little to show for it," said state Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, adding that the time has come for North Carolina to give up on the experiment. "We should stop adding money to the losses."

The operation gets about $1.5 million from the state each year. Most state leaders, including Gov. Mike Easley, say too much has been invested to pull the plug on the idea.

Global TransPark Executive Director Darlene Waddell said Workhorse's shutdown has little impact on the rest of the facility.

"The GTP is fully supportive of our tenants' efforts to be successful, and we regret that Workhorse has apparently run into difficulty," Waddell said in a statement to WRAL. "Workhorse's problems, whatever they are, do not represent a major setback for the GTP."

Canceling Workhorse's lease was "a normal business decision" because the company had fallen behind in its rent payments, she said. Officials are marketing the building to other industrial prospects, she said.

The remaining tenants at Global TransPark employ 320 people.