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Rowan remains hot spot for firms looking to build, expand

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Industrial development inquiries in Rowan County have remained strong this spring, despite a struggling economy nationwide.
Rowan County even has gotten a recent look from a textile company ó something the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission has dubbed “Project Spin.”
Robert Van Geons, executive director of the commission, told his board Wednesday that the manufacturer is a “classic, American-based, textile operator on the verge of busting at the seams.”
The company makes a high-end, superior product, Van Geons said, and heard about Rowan County’s potential through a personal relationship with an existing Rowan business.
Rowan County is attractive because of its history with textiles and the potential employment pool, Van Geons said.
Economic Development Commission Project Manager Stuart Hair said the company has looked at sites in Salisbury and China Grove. Project Spin is looking for 100,000 square feet and a potential investment of $3 million.
County leaders met with company representatives last week.
Hair also highlighted several other active projects for the commission board.
The Economic Development Commission considers it has an active “project” when a company or its agent has found a location of interest in Rowan County and essentially Rowan is “on the list” as the company considers an expansion or relocation.
Hair said “Project Satchel” represents an existing Rowan manufacturer looking at possibly building in Rockwell. The company is landlocked at its present site and wants to double its square footage. An expansion would represent 40 jobs.
“Project Balsam” is an existing pharmaceutical manufacturer in Kannapolis that has been growing rapidly in the past three years, Hair said. The company hopes to expand on site and add about 15 jobs.
“Project Cornmeal” is in the automotive business. The potential company has identified land in China Grove, and negotiations are “progressing real well,” Hair said. The business could mean about 10 jobs.
Projects “Heat” and “Third Buck,” which would represent large expansions of existing power plants in Rowan, are continuing to progress.
“Third Buck” refers to Duke Energy’s proposal to build a 620-megawatt, combined cycle, natural gas-fired plant at Buck Steam Station. The Rowan investment, if the project is approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission, would be at least $350 million.
Duke Energy will seek incentives or an “investment grant” from Rowan County equal to 85 percent of the additional property taxes it would pay over the first five years.
As part of the process, the Economic Development Commission will prepare an economic impact study of the project for commissioners.
Van Geons said his agency is seeing an increase in international inquiries and visits from Italian, Brazilian and Canadian companies. He predicted the international interest will continue with a weak U.S. dollar and high transportation costs as foreign companies see benefits for making products here rather than shipping them long distances.
Wednesday’s meeting was the organization’s first since longtime board member Jack Owens died last week.
The board held a moment of silence in Owens’ memory. Chairman Bruce Jones said Owens was a friend of everyone and his death was a lost to the board and community.
The agency will act on a resolution in memory of Owens at its June meeting.
Meanwhile, the board voted to recommend Pete Teague and Dianne Greene as Salisbury appointments to the commission. Those recommendations will go to Salisbury City Council.
Also, the board will recommend the reappointment of Harold Earnhardt and the appointment of Eric Slipp and Jimmy Greene to the board. The Rowan County Board of Commissioners must approve those recommendations.
A fourth person, someone to replace Raymond Coltraine, will be nominated at the board’s next meeting. Van Geons said several more names will be offered for the personnel committee’s consideration.
Coltraine, who is a Democratic nominee for county commissioner in the November election, is eligible to serve another term on the Economic Development Commission, but commissioners have asked that people running for boards that support the economic development agency be excluded as nominees.
In other business, the commission:
– Approved $1,000 toward Van Geons’ upcoming trip to China. Van Geons signed up for the trip through Catawba College before he was hired as executive director, and he will pay for 75 percent of the trip out of his own pocket.
Van Geons said he will be working in China and making important contacts on his trip and thanked the board for giving him the time for the travel.
“We will get everything we can out of it,” he said.
– Heard from Van Geons that the agency has started to build a relationship with High Rock Raceway and is forming a task force to address how that project might affect local entities and infrastructure.
– Learned the Rowan Jobs Initiative will help in redesigning and improving the Development Commission’s Web site.
– Heard that requests for proposals for Summit Corporate Center, the county-owned industrial park the agency is marketing, will be due back in June. The agency also has asked for proposals for new signs in the industrial park.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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