Editorial: A new element in office debate

  • Posted: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12:12 a.m.

With Monday’s announcement that the high-tech company Integro wants to move from Lee Street to the 300 block of Salisbury’s South Main Street, a new term — “machine vision” — entered discussions about the school central office site.

Machine vision systems are what Integro develops for Fortune 100 clients like BMW, Bausch & Lomb and Kimberly-Clark. Think of it as cutting-edge quality control work in which Integro helps its customers engineer systems that can spot production-line flaws with much greater precision and efficiency than the human eye. For local residents, understanding the company’s mechanics is probably secondary to recognizing that Integro represents something communities are desperately seeking to attract and hold on to these days — a high-tech startup venture that is enjoying rapid growth. That rapid growth, in revenues and workforce, means Integro needs to move out of the North Lee Street warehouse where it set up shop in 2005. It wants to build a $4 million, 41,000-square-foot facility at the East Bank-South Main corner where the Farmer’s Market and a defunct fitness center building now stand.

That’s one part of the plan — a part that most people will welcome, since it means a growing tax base, additional high-tech jobs and an important piece of what economic development officials hope will be a cluster of technology-related enterprises. Integro’s growth prospects were one reason local officials, including Rep. Harry Warren, helped secure state funding a couple of years ago for sidewalk improvements at its current Railwalk area location — improvements that have also benefitted other shops and businesses in that area.

The other part of the plan — the part that inevitably will generate questions about timing and behind-the-scenes maneuvering — is Integro making its relocation contingent on the school office eventually rising at the other end of the 300 block of South Main. Here, the vision gets muddier. After county officials rejected borrowing money to finance the office, city officials decided to explore a partnership in which Salisbury would borrow $8 million on behalf of the school system for an office at that site. While the proposal isn’t a done deal, it’s gaining momentum.

Now, Integro has emerged as another player in that partnership. Monday’s announcement doesn’t change the fundamentals of the central office financing in any way, and it’s unlikely to sway opponents of the South Main site. But it does bolster the city’s arguments that a downtown school office can be a catalyst for further development. When a company like Integro makes clear that it wants to stay here, grow and be a positive force in the community, that’s not just good news for Salisbury but for Rowan County as well.

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