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EDC starts to study spec building, other ways to lure jobs

SALISBURY — Work has started to determine if Rowan County needs a speculative building and who might partner to construct it.
For more than a year, economic developers have lamented the lack of available industrial buildings in Rowan County and noted the growing number of “spec” buildings in neighboring communities.
RowanWorks Economic Development Commission Executive Director Robert Van Geons can quickly list the buildings in Rowan that have been taken off the market recently, thanks to new owners or tenants. The buildings total 1.2 million square feet of formerly vacant space that is now occupied.
In 2011, the county had 3.5 million square feet of industrial space available. As of November, that number is down to 2.3 million square feet, he said.
Coming up with a solution to the lack of “product,” as economic developers say, is a top priority of the EDC in the coming year.
“The research we did is showing that we do have a shortfall, that we are lacking product to meet the demand for a lot of projects looking in our region,” Van Geons said.
Communities around Rowan are putting up spec buildings in hopes of quickly landing a company that wants to expand or move but cannot wait for construction.
Spec buildings are flexible shells, easy to customize or expand to fit a company’s needs, and often constructed with at least 30-foot ceiling heights that many manufacturers and distributors need today. Rowan has no large available buildings with ceilings that high.
Spec buildings either completed or proposed in the region include:
• An 88,527-square-foot building recently completed at the International Business Park in Concord. The building was a joint venture between the Nolim Group, MCM Black Construction and CESI Land Development.
• A $16 million, 400,000-square-foot spec building has also been proposed by the Silverman Group for the SL Concord Airport Business Park in Concord.
• A 62,878-square-foot building has been proposed for the Statesville Business Park. It would be expandable up to 187,878 square feet and is a joint venture between the city of Statesville, Iredell County, Statesville Regional Development and the Keith Corporation.
• Coroplast Tape Corporation recently announced plans to invest $12 million in a building located off of Interstate 77 in York County, S.C. It will be the German manufacturer’s first U.S. location.
• Matthews Construction began construction earlier this year on a $2.6 million, 102,000-square-foot building in Monroe.
Van Geons recently shared his analysis of the demand for buildings in Rowan with the EDC board and recommended meeting with private sector developers to better understand existing options.
At the urging of Chairman Pete Teague, the EDC board appointed a committee to look into the county’s building needs. Teague did not return repeated calls from the Post to discuss a potential spec building.
Van Geons said the EDC is still early in the process.
“It is our initial overview,” he said of his analysis. “However, there are a few more things we need to look into before we could strongly recommend a certain product type.”
Van Geons said some municipalities have shown an interest in collaborating with the EDC, and Rowan could work with resources from the state and others to help fund some kind of product development effort.
According to the EDC, building requests by square footage in the past 18 months include:
• Greater than 100,000 square feet: 21 percent of requests in Rowan and 15 percent of requests in the region. Rowan currently has two available buildings this size that could be used for modern operations.
• 50,000 to 99,000: 28 percent in Rowan and 30 percent in region. Rowan has three available buildings.
• 20,000 to 49,999: 36 percent in Rowan and 26 percent in region. Rowan has seven available industrial buildings.
• Less than 20,000: 15 percent in Rowan and 11 percent in region. Rowan has 14 industrial buildings available.
The available buildings in Rowan were not broken down by sale versus leases, which Van Geons said can play heavily into a business’s decision.
Ceiling height also is a crucial factor for many manufacturers and distributors, he said.
“A low ceiling height can make a building unusable, regardless of its square footage,” he said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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