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Mayor: Salisbury, Rowan need to aggressively recruit business

SALISBURY — Mayor Paul Woodson said he’s convinced that Salisbury and Rowan County need to do more to recruit business and industry after attending the Metro Mayors meeting in Raleigh.
Woodson attended the bipartisan N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition Wednesday, an annual gathering of about 25 mayors from cities with more than 30,000 residents, and said he came away invigorated to continue pushing a pro-business agenda.
“It strengthened me more that we have to pursue more businesses and more entrepreneurs and be even more aggressive, or these other towns are going to overshadow us,” he said. “… We have to present ourselves in Salisbury and Rowan County as a growing and aggressive community. We need to project that new attitude.”
Woodson said he doesn’t have specific initiatives to present to City Council yet but would support additional and different incentives to lure jobs and investment by the private sector.
“This county and city have to be very aggressive, even more aggressive in trying to recruit and trying to figure out how we can get more money into this community, even if it takes land deals and bigger tax breaks,” he said.
States like Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia that at one time lagged behind North Carolina in industrial recruitment have surpassed the state with “incredibly aggressive” incentive programs, Woodson said.
Woodson said Salisbury and Rowan County can’t deter potential new employers. He said he wrote a letter welcoming Gildan President Chuck Ward after county commission Chairman Jim Sides attacked the company’s hiring practices during a public hearing on incentives last month.
Commissioners passed the incentives 4-1, and Gildan plans to employ 384 people at two plants in Rowan.
Woodson said several mayors discussed their cities’ need for infrastructure for high-speed internet, which Salisbury already has with Fibrant. Rural communities will continue to struggle for population growth as newcomers flock to metropolitan areas for strong school systems and higher property values, he said.
Gov. Pat McCrory welcomed Metro Mayors to the Executive Mansion for a series of meetings to discuss transportation and other major issues facing the state’s largest cities. Former Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz, now secretary of cultural resources, spoke to the group, along with Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata.
McCrory, a former mayor of Charlotte, and Kluttz helped establish Metro Mayors in 2001.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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