"Greenville Industries" - An Economic Promoter Sold After 57 Years

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Greg Eans/The Daily Reflector

The Indigreen Corporate Park is seen from the air, developed by Greenville Industries in the 1980s. 

The name Greenville Industries may ring familiar with only a few who call Pitt County home. The result of its work for nearly six decades has had an impact on many of them.

From its start in 1951, Greenville Industries fulfilled its mission of promoting economic growth, developing more than 1,000 acres and helping reel in major industries including Burroughs Wellcome. Beginning in the late 1980s, it began developing Indigreen Corporate Park, which now includes ASMO, Overton's, Practicon, Cox North Carolina Publications (The Daily Reflector), Fuji Silysia and Metrics.

A sale to the Committee of 100 ends the existence of Greenville Industries but not its legacy. The deal, in the works for nearly six months, was completed earlier this month.

"The one thing that our board was most proud of is we are continuing the mission that was created here 50-some-odd years ago to bring economic development and opportunities for the people of Pitt County," said Jim Lanier, who served as the last chairman of the board of Greenville Industries. "We were so glad that the mission of the Committee of 100 and Greenville Industries was absolutely parallel."

Greenville Industries was incorporated on Jan. 3, 1951, as a for-profit corporation with its statement of policy "to encourage, promote and assist in expanding a balanced industrial and business growth of Greenville and Pitt County ... (and) make every diligent effort to carry out the aims of this corporation by consummating business transactions where private investors and businesses are unobtainable."

Eight local businessmen representing the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, Merchants Association and civic clubs - and some of the most prominent families in town - met on Dec. 14, 1950, to consider a draft of the certificate of incorporation and voted to begin business when 25 shares of common stock at $25 per share were sold. The certificate of incorporation was approved on Dec. 29, 1950.

Those agreeing to buy initial stock totaling 29 shares were James S. Ficklen, M.K. Blount, T.W. Rivers, T.I. Wagner, V.C. Fleming Jr., R.M. Garrett, J.B. Kittrell and W.T. Kyzer, according to the minutes.

"They were willing to put their money where their mouths were," said Wanda Yuhas, executive director of the Pitt County Development Commission. "These folks put their own money on the table."

By Sept. 29, 1952, 220 shares were owned - with 58 different people holding from one to four shares. Some shares were sold by chamber of commerce members and Jaycees going door to door.

"It was black and white, well-to-do and not very well-to-do, corporate managers and secretaries," Yuhas said. "That's pretty amazing. ... And it was all a matter of, ‘What can I do to make my community a better place? How do we have an economy that is a year-around economy?'"

The group was visionary in preparing for a day when agriculture was not king, Yuhas said. As other farm communities in eastern North Carolina faltered, Pitt County was poised to make the transition with the presence of diversified industries.

"Those guys were way ahead of their time," said Ray Reddrick, a Greenville Industries board member.

Greenville Industries functioned essentially as a land-holding company that offered real estate at a reduced rate for new or expanding companies. It was active through the 1960s and early '70s, bringing in Empire Brushes (Rubbermaid), Vermont American, Burroughs Wellcome, Fieldcrest Mills, National Boat Works (Grady-White) and Eaton Corp. (NACCO Materials Handling). After a decade of being a passive landholder, Greenville Industries embarked on developing 280 acres in the late 1980s that is now Indigreen Corporate Park. The first lot was sold to ASMO in September 1994.

Despite the success of the park, functioning as a for-profit corporation became too much of a challenge, given the costs of maintenance of the remaining land along with the tax burden.

"If it were created within the last 25 years, it would have been created as a nonprofit," Lanier said. "I've talked with a number of founders, and they were real clear, they didn't want government involvement. They didn't want all of the strings over it that if they had been a nonprofit."

They also didn't do it for the money, Yuhas added. A "selfless" spirit for the good of the community shows today in the growth of East Carolina University and University Health Systems.

"We stand on the shoulders of a lot of men and women we can be proud of," Yuhas said. "They have set us an example.

"None of us can possibly overestimate all that the university and University Health Systems have meant to us, but at same time, if these folks hadn't done what they did when they did, it wouldn't have set the stage in turn for a teachers' college to become a university, for the university to foster a medical school and for the medical school to ... lead to a powerhouse like University Health Systems."

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Now, we even have a new dental school coming to the East as well - ECU Dental School.  For more information on the local economic impact, community event information, news, planning and real estate, please visit www.1SearchMLS.com - Greenville's #1 Website to Search ALL Area Listings!

 

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