EDC continues advocacy of interchange relocation
By Mark Wineka
The Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission will continue to advocate for the half-mile relocation of an Old Beatty Ford Road interchange along Interstate 85.
The Landis Board of Aldermen has recently passed a resolution in favor of the interchange’s being relocated a half-mile north of the current Old Beatty Ford Road, although it would tie back into the road.
Economic development officials say the relocation would allow for a full diamond-type interchange design and open up some 400-plus acres to development.
The development possibilities at the existing Old Beatty Ford overpass are limited and would only allow a half-cloverleaf interchange, they say.
The EDC board intends to ask the Rowan County Board of Commissioners for a resolution in support of relocating the interchange, which is proposed but not funded.
The Cabarrus-Rowan Metropolitan Planning Organization also is being asked to consider the change.
If it happens, it’s likely the state would look to private developers to share in the cost of construction.
“I bet the state’s going to want the developer to build that road (back to Old Beatty Ford Road),” EDC board member Harold Earnhardt predicted.
The Salisbury-Rowan EDC met Wednesday and passed a resolution in memory of Jack Owens, a board member who died May 8.
EDC Chairman Bruce Jones presented Owens’ wife and daughter with the resolution and his nameplate. Owens served from July 1, 2002, until his death and had been the EDC board’s vice chairman and treasurer in years past.
Jones said he learned quickly with the outspoken Owens that his bark was worse than his bite.
“He became a really dear friend,” Jones said.
In other business Wednesday, the EDC:
– Learned from Executive Director Robert Van Geons that Duke Energy’s proposed capital investment in the Buck Steam Station could be at least $500 million. Previously, while the company was awaiting approval from the N.C. Utilities Commission for a new combined-cycle, natural gas-fired generating unit at Buck, the company had said the investment would be at least $350 million.
“That’s very exciting for us,” Van Geons said of the project’s potential. Duke plans a 620-megawatt combined-cycle unit and would retire the steam station’s two oldest coal units once it came on line.
The company still needs to jump several hurdles, including approval of a state air permit.
It has projected that the new unit’s construction would employ 50 initially and up to 500 at its peak. When it’s operating, it would lead to 10 to 20 new jobs. Duke hopes the new unit could be running by the summer of 2010.
Van Geons said Duke would build the project in two phases. Duke is seeking a tax incentive package from Rowan County, and a public hearing on that could be scheduled for July 7, Van Geons said.
– Heard from Project Manager Stuart Hair that he spent two days in Washington, D.C., with a high-end textile manufacturing client who wanted to meet with the county’s congressional delegation.
Hair’s project status report says the client is looking for 100,000 square feet and has at least a $3 million investment in mind.
– Learned that an automotive repair project dubbed “Cornmeal” has successfully negotiated a purchase price on land. The project would take in about 15 acres and hire up to 10 people. The EDC has been assisting in the land negotiation between the prospect and the family owning the land.
– Learned that a project named “Satchel,” which represents an existing Rowan County industry, is looking to double its production capacity. It hopes to make an offer on a building at a new location, Hair said.
– Learned that a project titled “Balsam” represents an existing pharmaceutical industry looking to expand.
Hair and Van Geons said economic development activity is in the slow part of the year. In the past month, the office had 12 inquiries but none that rose to the level of being an active project.
In all, the EDC characterizes 18 prospects as “active.” Together, they would represent 693 new jobs and a total capital investment of more than $1 billion.
Van Geons said the pending election, high oil prices and sluggish economy as a whole are among the factors combining to force companies to take a slower approach in their growth or relocation plans.
Van Geons recently returned from a trip to China, where he had 12 business meetings, three plant tours and made eight new connections in the United States.
He made the trip with representatives of the business school at Catawba College, his alma mater.
Listing some of his impressions, Van Geons said as China’s middle class grows, its demand for unique, expensive goods will increase.
He witnessed a rabid, aggressive capitalism in the country, where the speed of growth is a serious concern, as are environmental issues.
Van Geons said the air quality in some cities is “like breathing gravel.”
He noted that companies are being encouraged to invest in the United States, but they are trying to learn where and how they should look. Nationalism overall does not apply to business, he added.
“They just want customers,” he said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or email@example.com.