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Editorial: Local threads, global reach

While bank “stress” tests and quarterly earnings reports may offer broad signs of a slowly stirring economy, the real-world signal that we’ve survived the worst will come when companies are hiring instead of firing.
On that front, Rowan County got some promising news this week, with the possibility of a new company coming to the area and an existing industry expanding.
Both potential investments have strong links to the area’s economic past, while also pointing to how that economy is evolving, becoming more diversified, more technological and more intertwined with global structures. The new venture, Sustainable Textiles Group, appears on the verge of setting up shop in the former Hanesbrands plant in China Grove ó an $11 million venture that would eventually yield 223 new jobs. There’s more than a thread connecting it with the area’s proud textile past. The company would not only be located in a former textile site but would reuse some of the old machinery and has expressed an interest in hiring experienced textile workers.
However, as the company’s name suggests, this is a greener, leaner operation than textile operations of the past. “Sustainable” is the key word. The company, part of the Circle LLC group, describes itself as a manufacturer of fabric yarns from “pre-consumer waste” ó which loosely translates as the cotton fiber remnants that might once have been discarded but now find their way into home furnishings, hand wipes and other products. And while the fabric may bear the “made in America” seal, it’s sold around the world. The future of these new-era jobs here in Rowan will depend on Circle LLC connecting with customers around the globe.
You find that same blend of the local and the global in Henkel, which is looking at a $23 million expansion of its site at the former National Starch and Chemical plant that could create 103 new jobs. Henkel is a multinational company based in Germany and its adhesives are used in electrical circuit-board assemblies. The parent company also manufactures sealants, surface treatments and a variety of other products that show up in places as diverse as the aerospace industry and consumer packaging. While the plant site endures, that’s quite a shift from the days of starch and stiff collars.
In addition to the hire-local, market-global aspect of these businesses, there’s another common theme. If these proposals come to fruition, it will be the culmination of local and state partnerships ó and because of the availability of state and local incentives. While flusher times may offer the luxury of philosophical debate about incentives, the unemployment rate is a painful reminder of how important it is to continually grow new businesses, expand old ones and diversify. In these instances, officials say, incentives were an essential tool in attracting new investment. Another essential was the combined effort of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission, county officials and municipal leaders in China Grove and Salisbury, the state and Duke Energy. Thanks to their efforts, some of those highly prized “help wanted” signs may soon appear.

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