• 63°

Out of the running?

Although no official announcement has been made, speculation is growing that a pharmaceutical company once considering building a distribution center in Windsor or Suffolk will take its business to North Carolina.

Lisa Perry, economic development director for Isle of Wight County, told the Board of Supervisors during its meeting Thursday that her office “is hopeful, but not optimistic. The company is focusing on a site in North Carolina. But the process is not over yet.”

Isle of Wight hopes to attract business to the Shirley T. Holland Intermodal Park near Windsor on U.S. Route 460. The park’s current tenants are Safco Products Co. and Cost Plus World Market.

Perry declined to name the pharmaceutical company, but she did confirm that the competing site is the Four Oaks Business Park, an undeveloped, 356-acre site near Interstate 95 in Four Oaks, N.C., in Johnston County.

That site, according to a July 10 article in the News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., is coveted by pharmaceutical giant Becton Dickinson for a warehouse and distribution center.

Becton Dickinson, headquartered in Franklin Lakes, N.J., develops and manufactures medical instruments. According to the company’s annual report for 2009, it has about 29,000 employees worldwide and assets totaling more than $9.3 billion.

Becton Dickinson has facilities in Durham, Wilson and Mebane, N.C., and in the Research Triangle Park between Durham and Raleigh.

Colleen White, director of corporate communications for the company, did not return several messages seeking comment.

Four Oaks Mayor Linwood Parker said he didn’t know the name of the company interested in his town’s industrial park, but he did confirm the company is looking at another site in Virginia.

Phillip Bradshaw, chairman of the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors, said he didn’t remember the name of the pharmaceutical company in question, but he also confirmed that the other site the company was looking at was in Johnston County. Bradshaw said he arranged for company officials to meet with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to tour the Windsor site.

“They came and looked at us, and they looked at CenterPoint,” Bradshaw said, referring to the intermodal park under development in Suffolk. “We weren’t the only site the company looked at, which was a surprise to us.”

Bradshaw added that a follow-up meeting between Bolling and company officials never took place, leading him to believe that Windsor was out of the running.

“It seemed like this group was committed to going to North Carolina before they even made their final visit to Virginia,” Bradshaw said.

In May, Perry said the company could make an announcement in a matter of weeks. She also said the $40 million project had been in the works for more than a year.

“I’m very upset that we’ve (possibly) lost out on another opportunity once again,” Bradshaw said. “It just shows that we’re still not situated where we can draw in and attract the businesses that we need to, and it seems like North Carolina is.

“We’ve got to be able to attract these businesses. We’re going to have to come back and develop a different strategic plan.”