‘Substantial’ company in talks with county to assume G-P option
A substantial but unnamed company is in talks with the county today to assume a purchase agreement from “Project Black” and hopes to buy the former Georgia-Pacific site between Whiteville and Chadbourn for about $2.1 million. Project Black, whose identity has also not been officially released, has an option with the county to purchase the property, but the option expires at midnight Friday. Project Black has been under deadline to obtain financing for Phase I construction and isn’t expected to do so by tomorrow night. Project Black officials have said they would employ more than 150 people initially, which would make it the most significant new industry announcement here in years. Project Black officials say they have a path to financing the project but still need more time. The unnamed third party’s involvement, if county commissioners pass an expected revised agreement Monday night, would be a major development in making the former G-P facility a viable industrial site. The company would initially work with Project Black until it receives financing, but if Project Black falters, the company would partner with the county to bring jobs to the G-P site. Another company, S&A Railroad Ties, is prepared to set up shop at the site as an ancillary business to Project Black. “The company that’s talking with the county hopes to buy the site for an industrial use that will translate into new jobs,” Columbus Jobs Foundation Chairman Rick Edwards said yesterday. “What they are doing will help us step up to the next level of job creation in Columbus County.” Edwards said the county, the county Economic Development Commission and its director Gary Lanier, commissioners and Columbus Jobs have been working to secure a deal. “Sept. 29 has been looming in our minds for some time,” Edwards said. “Gary has been calling feverishly to help Project Black secure financing and Columbus Jobs has been working under the radar as a private entity to make the deal happen. “What this proves is that you have to work hard to make these things happen, and to never, never, never give up.” Lanier is on medical leave after recent surgery and unavailable for comment. The G-P tract has two parcels of land containing 144.95 acres. In November, the county bought the tracts for just under $2 million before G-P officials planned to sell it, possibly for scrap. The purchase price will be higher than Project Black originally had agreed to pay. When the company signed a six-month option on the property in December, the agreed-upon price was $1.894 million. However, Project Black requested and received a three-month extension on the option and agreed to the increased price in an amendment to the original option. Under the terms of the amended option assumed by the buyer and expected to be exercised, the buyer also agreed to reimburse the county for all expenses it has incurred relating to the property and to start initial manufacturing operations for production of bio-coal on the property within 18 months of the sale being finalized.