Rowan in line for four possible industrial projects

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Rowan County remains in the running for four industrial projects that would represent $430 million in investment and 460 jobs.
“These top four ó it’s pretty much us and making it happen,” said Robert Van Geons, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission.
Van Geons has been keeping the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, N.C. Department of Commerce and his own board updated on the projects, which have been given the code names of Sunfish, Waste, Heat and Stick.
A newer prospect, named WSDA, also has shown some serious interest in Rowan County, Van Geons told the EDC board Wednesday.
The possible good news is tempered by mounting layoffs at Freightliner’s truck manufacturing plant in Cleveland and overall jobless numbers that keep growing.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate in January increased to 9.7 percent, according to the Employment Security Commission. Rowan’s January rate will not be available until March 19, but it already had reached 9.3 percent in December.
Van Geons said prospect inquiries to the EDC office have fallen sharply in recent months, but when inquiries are made the potential industry is serious and things start moving quickly.
“A lot of companies are in great shape ó they just aren’t looking,” Van Geons said.
The EDC has spent recent weeks planning for two events designed to help existing industries and local funding partners.
A government procurement event will be held at 7:45 a.m. April 2 at Holiday Inn, 530 Jake Alexander Blvd.
The event is aimed at any Rowan County business interested in winning government contracts for projects created by the $787 billion economic stimulus package or the $3.6 trillion proposed federal budget.
The program will try to give advice and instruction on how to navigate federal, state and local government procurement systems to obtain contracts. Participants also will hear success stories from local businesses which have won government contracts or funding in the past.
All registrants will receive a “Tapping the Billion$” resource guide, providing key contacts and informational links.
Duke Energy has signed on as the event’s main sponsor.
Participating agencies will include the U.S. Small Business Administration, General Services Administration, N.C. Military Business Center, N.C. State Government Purchasing Office, N.C. Small Business and Technology Development Center and the N.C. Department of Transportation.
The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce has advertised the government procurement event through its newsletter and an e-mail blast that went out Wednesday.
Registration can be made online at There is no charge.
Van Geons said it’s easier than most company representatives would think to have a beneficial business relationship with the state and federal government.
“There are dollars there, I swear to you,”‘ he added.
Van Geons has asked each of the EDC board members to call 10 to 15 companies in Rowan County to tell them about the procurement event.
At 8 a.m. March 27, the EDC will hold a program for municipal and county officials on finding “non-traditional funding for community projects.”
Visitors from the Golden Leaf Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development section, N.C. Department of Commerce, Centralina Economic Development Commission and congressional staffs will be among the presenters.
The event will be held at the EDC office, which is in The Gateway building in the 200 block of East Innes Street.
In other business Wednesday, the EDC approved a proposed 2009-2010 budget of $461,225.
EDC board member James Taylor, head of the finance committee, and Van Geons described it as a flat budget and the fifth year in a row it represented no increase to the funding partners.
The funding partners and their annual contributions are Rowan County, $289,018; Salisbury, $69,498; China Grove, $2,500; Cleveland, $2,769; Faith, $880; Granite Quarry, $3,040; Rockwell, $2,744; Spencer, $3,503; Landis, $1,000; and East Spencer, $1,255.Van Geons said the budget still allows for aggressive marketing, the servicing of existing industry and redevelopment of the EDC Web site. Total marketing and prospect development expenses are projected at $86,509; total travel and promotion expenses, $45,640; general office expenses, $67,523; and administrative expenses $261,553.
The budget calls for using $85,018 in unreserved funds.
During a discussion of the EDC’s financial statement from February, board member Jim Greene expressed concern that all of the organization’s money ó checking, money market and eight-month certificate of deposit ó was in one bank.
The accounts totaled $559,473. Greene said the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. could only cover $250,000 in the event of a bank failure and it might be wise to spread the EDC’s money among several banks to make sure the funds are fully insured.
The bank balances are unusually high now because they include $200,000 from Duke Energy, which recently awarded a grant to the EDC for Summit Corporate Center improvements.
The grant comes from Duke Energy’s Carolinas Investment Fund.
Community Bank of Rowan holds all of the EDC’s money. The EDC chose the bank after soliciting bids for a three-year contract.
The finance committee will talk with the bank and make sure the funds are adequately protected.
In other discussions, Van Geons said the two most senior project managers from the N.C. Department of Commerce took time recently to visit Rowan County to visit a couple of sites and the airport.
Their visit came five days after the EDC made a formal presentation to commerce officials, took them to lunch and sought incentives for the late-stage industrial projects still considering Rowan.
EDC board members Hayes Smith and Randy Gettys said Van Geons did an outstanding job with the presentation to the commerce representatives.