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Josh Bergeron: This time, towns bring the excitement

Particularly for those energized by business development, it’s an exciting time to be a member of the town boards or city councils in many of Rowan County’s municipalities.

There are subdivisions under construction or planned. Sure, there have not been job announcements in the hundreds or thousands in Rowan, but, slowly or not, business is growing.

Both were clear Friday morning, when the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce organized a breakfast event in which state legislators took top billing, but officials from local municipalities had more exciting news to report.

In the NC General Assembly, despite the fact that Republicans lost their super majority in last year’s elections and legislative leaders have offered statements about bipartisanship, North Carolina is likely in for more of the same.

The “impasse” between the GOP-controlled legislature and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper is likely to continue, Sen. Carl Ford, R-33, said during Friday’s event.

Perhaps, as Rep. Julia Howard, R-77, suggested, there may be more for members of the General Assembly to do in the way of tax cuts and “leaving money in the people’s pockets. Rep. Harry Warren, R-76, suggested that Medicaid expansion may be a topic of conversation among legislators this year, but taxes and Medicaid don’t tend to gin up much excitement across a broad spectrum of people.

Warren said it best when he correctly stated the county is poised for rapid growth. Warren says he’s encouraged by leadership at the county level and that municipalities are working with county leadership.

In Landis, town board members are celebrating that 94 building permits were issued last year and that several dozen homes are planned for the south Rowan municipality. Old Beatty Ford Road feeds into Landis, too. So, Mayor Pro Tem Tommy Garver reasoned that growth at Old Beatty Ford’s coming interstate exit will bleed over to Landis.

Rockwell Mayor Beau Taylor recalled the rapid growth story of FillTech USA, which makes products from lip balm to hand sanitizer. Ten years ago, the company had just 12 employees. Now, Taylor said, the company employs 140 people, who work in two shifts, five days per week. The Alexander Glen development has plans for 104 houses and four lots have already been sold, Taylor said.

There are hundreds of houses planned in Granite Quarry — the site of Rowan County’s most up-to-date industrial building — Mayor Bill Feather said.

But, if you’re looking for exciting business development news in Rowan, the best spot to start is Kannapolis, which looks poised to propel south Rowan’s growth with its annexation of land along the Old Beatty Ford Road exit under construction and extension of water lines into the area. Its downtown redevelopment project is underway. Once the Intimidators move into Kannapolis’ downtown ballpark, the old park will be marketed as prime real estate along the interstate, Mayor Darrell Hinnant said.

What’s more, Hinnant said, as the two-county city grows so does Rowan County. Because businesses who open up shop in the city’s southern half do not only employ Cabarrus County residents.

Commissioners Chairman Greg Edds likened the state of Rowan County to a NASCAR driving experience — in which fans purchase an opportunity to drive a real race car. Lots of work goes into the car before it gets onto the track. Then, the driver needs to figure out how to operate the car, Edds said. The last step is getting the car up to speed, he said.

Applied to Rowan County, our community finds itself somewhere between figuring out how to operate the car and getting up to speed. Kannapolis, for example, has found its cruising speed. Towns such as China Grove are still working to get there. To the north, towns such as East Spencer are dreaming about how growth from Charlotte might eventually transform their community for the better.

Town boards and city councils do not create jobs, but by making local government easy to navigate and creating an environment where business can thrive and people want to live, our municipal elected officials play a critical role in economic development.

Because it won’t be long before businesses looking to build or expand may soon begin exhausting open, accessible space in Cabarrus County and look north, now is the time for town boards and city councils to double down on their efforts to make their communities a better place to live.

Josh Bergeron is editor of the Salisbury Post. Contact him at josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com or 704-797-4248.

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