Interest in Rowan Industrial sites picks up

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 2, 2012

SALISBURY — Fifteen companies are in daily contact with the Economic Development Commission about moving to Rowan County or expanding a business that’s already here, an official says.
“We are now seeing 15 rapid-moving projects in full swing, requiring daily responses,” said Robert Van Geons, executive director for RowanWorks EDC. “That’s unprecedented.”
Eleven are existing industries that want to expand either in their current location or into new facilities. Four are outside companies looking to set up shop in Rowan.
The projects range from three to 200 new jobs.
Rowan County commissioners last week approved tax incentives to bring Gildan Activewear and its 200 potential new jobs to Rowan County.
Rowan is one of three communities Gildan is considering for a new facility to expand its yarn spinning operation. The company would invest about $55 million, including $47 million in new equipment and other improvements.
If it chooses Rowan, Gildan would buy and retrofit the 400,000-square-foot PGT Windows building located at 2121 Heilig Road.
The shuttered PGT building is one of 10 available industrial facilities in Rowan that has either recently sold or has a serious potential buyer, Van Geons said. In fact, if all the deals close, “we very well may not have a building larger than 40,000 square feet by Jan. 1,” he said.
“We need product,” Van Geons said. “Companies here are looking to grow and expand.”
Freshouse recently announced plans to buy and renovate the former WA Brown & Son building at 311 Long Meadow Drive. WA Brown operates in a different facility. 
Freshouse will invest $6.3 million in its Salisbury operation and create 90 new jobs. The company has run a packaging and distribution operation in Salisbury for nearly 15 years and now employs 123 people in a leased facility at 216 Julian Road. 
Universal Forest Products paid $1.7 million for the former Maxon Furniture plant on Grace Church Road this summer and plans to add nearly 50 new jobs over the next few years.
The 211,000-square-foot MI Windows building on Heilig Road has generated “a lot of interest,” Van Geons said but declined to name companies looking at the building.
While most industries want a building, companies are more interested in buying land than they have been since before the recession, Van Geons said.
In the past two months, the EDC has shown five lots at Summit Corporate Center in Salisbury, as well as the 380-acre Platinum site between Peeler and Webb roads on Interstate 85, he said.
Interest in the Platinum site includes the possibility of two large users sharing the site, or subdividing the property into a business park with multiple users.
The owner of Platinum Construction Corp. faces foreclosure on the vacant property, but Van Geons said that should not dissuade a potential buyer and could make the site more appealing.
Companies are especially interested in properties visible from Interstate 85, Van Geons said.
At this point, Rowan is not in danger of losing a potential new industry due to a lack of available buildings, he said.
“If we see the absorption of product that we are projecting, in the future that may be an issue,” he said.
Van Geons said he expects decisions from many of the 15 “full-swing” projects within the next 90 days.
Companies the EDC has worked with since 2000 to locate or expand in Rowan County now employ 5,500 people and will pay $7.5 million in taxes this year, Van Geons said.
By the end of this fiscal year, they will have paid more than $50 million in municipal, county and fire district taxes, he said.
During that time, local government will have paid roughly $9 million in cash incentives, making the net return on investment about $41 million, Van Geons said.
The EDC is preparing an annual report expected to be released in January. Highlights also will include comprehensive services offered by the EDC, as well as targeted marketing efforts and support for existing industry.
Van Geons said he’s made an offer to the top candidate for the new marketing specialist position but doesn’t have a signed commitment yet. The newly created position will serve as a retail recruiter for Salisbury and other towns, as well as marketing Rowan to industries of all types.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.