City praises EDC one day after county slams it

  • Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 1:32 a.m.
    UPDATED: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 1:33 a.m.

SALISBURY — A day after two Rowan County commissioners criticized Robert Van Geons for ignoring local businesses, Salisbury City Council lauded him for helping keep two companies in Rowan.

City officials said Integro Technologies and Driveshaft Shop were ready to move out of the county but stayed in Salisbury thanks in part to Van Geons, executive director for RowanWorks Economic Development Commission.

Integro, which outgrew a renovated warehouse on North Lee Street, is constructing a $3.2 million headquarters in downtown Salisbury. Driveshaft, forced to move by the Klumac Road realignment project, has relocated to Southmark Drive.

“Integro was prepared to move to another county, and the city and EDC prevented that from happening,” City Manager Doug Paris said.

Integro will receive a seven-year tax rebate from the city worth about $163,000. The city gave Driveshaft a $25,000 grant to help pay for $200,000 in renovations to a formerly vacant building the company bought.

Monday night, county commission Chairman Jim Sides and Vice Chairman Craig Pierce blindsided Van Geons with criticism of his agency’s efforts to recruit and develop business.

Pierce said the EDC has done a “terrible job” of retaining businesses and growing companies that survived the recession. Sides said Van Geons is ignoring companies that have been here for years, not returning their phone calls about requests for assistance.

Van Geons was giving the commissioners a presentation on a new initiative that he said will support existing businesses. After the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Van Geons said he plans to move forward with the Existing Industry Support Initiative and contract an additional staff person for two years.

He said he always expects tough questions from the commissioners.

Paris and City Clerk Myra Heard presented Van Geons and City Council members with a framed photograph taken at the press conference where the city announced the Integro project.

Several council members chimed in with praise for Van Geons. Although no one mentioned the commissioners, Paris acknowledged after the meeting that the presentation was in response to the county’s criticism.

“Yes,” Paris said. “We have a lot to be excited about and dedicated partnerships working hard to bring opportunity here for our citizens.”

Two years ago, Mayor Paul Woodson challenged the EDC and other economic development agencies to work together to recruit more businesses to Salisbury. Paris said since then, the EDC, Tourism Development Authority, Downtown Salisbury Inc. and Chamber of Commerce have made progress and worked to retain and grow existing businesses.

Van Geons thanked city officials and said business retention and recruitment is not possible without the support of elected officials, who provide much of the EDC’s funding and other tools like incentives.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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