Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
A big one got away, for now.
Randy Harrell, executive director of the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission, said Wednesday a distribution operation with ties to the motorsports industry will not be coming to Rowan County.
We thought we had them, Harrell told the EDC board. … I was convinced they were coming.
EDC officials referred to the company as Project Hood. For confidentiality purposes, the EDC gives project names to all prospects looking at Rowan County as a possible new location.
Project Hood had been referred to the Salisbury-Rowan EDC by the Charlotte Regional Partnership, according to an activity status report.
Harrell said the company was looking, through the Keith Corp., at a 10-acre spot in the county-owned Summit Corporate Center. But when the client failed to get an important contract, it backed out and the EDC now considers the project closed.
Harrell said the project had ties to Toyota.
EDC Project Manager Stuart Hair said he recently made visits to Harmony Labs in Landis and Boral Brick in East Spencer as part of the EDCs emphasis on business retention and expansion.
Harmony Labs recently moved to the former Wal-Mart location off Cannon Boulevard, where the company is doing a significant remodeling. The company employs about 150 people with hopes of reaching 210 by the end of the year.
Things are really exciting for Harmony, Hair said.
Boral Brick is turning more toward the use of alternative fuels such as sawdust to heat their kilns, Hair reported.
Boral Brick employs about 140 people with hopes of adding 20 employees by years end, according to Hair. He said the East Spencer plant is operating at about 75 percent of capacity.
The EDC board received an update from both Harrell and Bob Wright, president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, on efforts to expedite funding for the replacement of the Interstate 85 section that includes the Yadkin River bridge.
The key is strength in numbers, Harrell said.
While state Reps. Lorene Coates and Fred Steen and state Sen. Andrew Brock have put themselves behind House and Senate bills to obtain funding for the project, various organizations and governments have been passing resolutions or writing letters of endorsement.
Wright said the Cabarrus-Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization has written a letter of endorsement that also has been supported by local municipalities. A Regional Roads Committee of the Charlotte Area Chamber of Commerce also is behind the projects funding, and letters have been going to the N.C. Turnpike Authority.
The Turnpike Authority is looking into the feasibility of a toll roads paying for the bridge replacement, and a preliminary report on that is due in coming weeks.
Rowan County commissioners also support expedited funding for the bridge replacement.
The squeaky wheel gets the grease, Wright said. I think there are a lot of people pushing very hard for this.
In other EDC business:
Newton Cohen will be going off the board in June. Dr. Jimmy Jenkins, president of Livingstone College, has been recommended as Cohens replacement. The appointment will have to be approved by Rowan commissioners.
Harrell said efforts are being made among econOmic developers statewide to change the new Urban Progress Zone designations that have taken the place of state development zones. The recent legislative changes mean Summit Corporate Center can no lonGer be part of an Urban Progress Zone, meaning it cant offer important tax credits to new companies.
We want to fight to get it back, Harrell said.
If the industrial park were annexed by the city, it would qualify for the new zone. but Harrell said the EDC would be against Salisbury annexation. A non-annexation agreement is in place with the city until 2012.
A reception to welcome Toyota Racing Development to Rowan County will be held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. July 25 at the Salisbury depot. Harrell said the reception will be paid for through private dollars.
Invitations will be going out to 200-plus people. A groundbreaking on Toyota Racing Developments new site off Peach Orchard Road will be held earlier in the day.
Members of the EDC board will be attending the June 5 annual meeting of the Charlotte Regional Partnership.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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