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China Grove landowners look at Duke Site Readiness program

With updates to Interstate 85 in their final stages, China Grove officials and the Rowan County Economic Development Commission are preparing for potential growth that could bring new industry to the southern end of the county.

To prepare, the EDC has asked a group of China Grove landowners to participate in the Duke Site Readiness Program.

The program works to evaluate and improve industrial sites in Duke Energy’s service area. It would be offered at no cost or obligation to the group, which owns a collective 300 acres east and west of the interstate.

The acreage is just south of N.C. 152 at I-85 Exit 68 and is zoned light industrial.

“We think that the southern part of the county is going to see some positive growth,” said Rod Crider, president and CEO of the commission.

Scott Shelton, the commission’s vice president of operations, presented the program to some of the landowners Monday evening.

“This is an established program,” Shelton said. “It is very well respected. A lot of site selection consultants, once they hear a site is a Duke Energy Site Readiness participant, that makes them feel a little bit better about taking a further look at the property.”

Shelton said the program is a multistage process. First, Duke Energy contracts with an architectural firm to look at the sites and come up with best uses for the property. Then, the company drafts conceptual drawings for the property, diagraming its flood plane, buildable acreage and more.

After these initial steps, Duke Energy would provide the commission with matching grant funds to do what Shelton called “due diligence work”: environmental reports, wetlands reports, soil bearings and more.

It’s a mutually beneficial process, said Shelton. Landowners are better prepared to market their properties, and Duke Energy has an increased chance of attracting commercial customers for energy.

And industrial development helps the county at large, he said.

“Industrial sites are really what drives the tax base here,” Shelton said. “It really takes the pressure off of the county to come up with money for schools, police, things like that. Housing is great but some of the things that come with housing are very expensive.”

Franklin Gover, assistant town manager for China Grove, said town officials are “very encouraged by this opportunity.”

“The land use plan says light industrial, the zoning says light industrial out there,” Gover said. “We’d love to see an industrial park out there or a big user for some tax base.”

For now, the Economic Development Commission welcomes further dialogue with the landowners, with no commitment to participation in the program yet required.

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