Posted on December 14, 2020
A company that makes marine structures from barges to bridge tressels is expanding and moving from Chesapeake to Perquimans County.
East Coast Steel Fabrication will be the only large manufacturer in the county and the first in at least 20 years. The company will add 28 jobs and invest $482,000 in new buildings and equipment.
The numbers may not seem large for places like Raleigh or Virginia Beach, but in rural eastern North Carolina it is a game changer, said David Goss, economic developer for the county. Located on the Albemarle Sound, Perquimans County has fewer than 14,000 residents, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It’s a very big deal,” he said.
The company has operated in Chesapeake for 14 years, making metal barges, bridge structures, pile-driving templates and deck houses for projects from New York to Florida, including the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Plans are to move all its operations to Perquimans County by the end of next year, said Cynthia Overman, owner and business manager. Overman’s husband and former shipyard welder, Mark Overman, is company president and oversees the construction projects.
Crews are constructing a new 10,000-square-foot, metal building where they will build their wares. They will start on another 14,000-square-foot facility soon, she said. The site lies on 10 acres along the Perquimans River in the county’s marine industrial park.
The new jobs will average $45,000 a year, in a county where the median annual income is about $30,000. The company averages annual revenues of $6 million, according to a release from the state.
“We hope people will see something like this being successful and want to come,” Goss said. “Land is cheap here.”
The company began work on the second site with six employees in Perquimans County last year in a small metal building.
The company moved to a place it could own in Perquimans for less than it could rent or buy in Chesapeake, Overman said.
Kayla Livingston, a 19-year-old welder, was kneeling Thursday on a platform in her coveralls, steel-toed boots and welding helmet fabricating a barge hatch. A bright spark from her welding rod lit up like a small star as she fused parts together.
She is a new hire since recently finishing welding courses.
“I like hands-on skills a lot,” she said taking a break from her work. “I wanted to learn welding.”
Her veteran co-worker, Arnold Wiggins, acknowledged she’s already good at it.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce awarded the company a $60,000 grant in October to be paid after it completes the promised investment and new hires. Many of the employees will transfer from the Chesapeake facility, Overman said. Most live in eastern North Carolina anyway, she said.
The grant will help purchase a new crane, she said. The new building is nearly finished except for a back wall. Once the crane arrives and is moved inside, crews will put up the wall, she said.
Projects in different stages of completion dot the property.
A massive gray dredge, intended for a Chesapeake contractor, sits on the grounds next to a building. Soon, a crew will launch the dredge at the nearby ramp on the river and a barge will take it away.
“Up the Intracoastal Waterway it will go,” Overman said.
Stacks of metal pipe 82 feet long are lying on the ground nearly ready to go to a project on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Supervisor Jonathan Parks stood next to a long, wide sheet of steel that will be part of a 55-foot-long barge for Norfolk Dredging Company. It could take three months to finish.
Contracts to build two more vessels are in the works, he said.
“It’s going to get busy around here fast,” he said.
Jeff Hampton, 252-491-5272, email@example.com