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Moving Forward: Economic Development Commission’s new initiative already leading to progress

SALISBURY — Just a few months after the Rowan Economic Development Commission launched the Forward Rowan campaign, the initiative is already making an impact.

“We’re already seeing results,” said Rod Crider, president of the Rowan EDC. “Our activity level is up 40%.”

Forward Rowan is an initiative designed to help the EDC pivot from a public-only funding model to a public-private partnership. The plan was officially launched in July. By the time the formal fundraising period of the campaign came to a close at the end of the October, the EDC had already surpassed its goal of amassing $1 million in private donations.

The Rowan EDC, Crider said, is poised to unveil one of the first initiatives that was made possible by Forward Rowan and capital that was raised.

“We’re getting ready to launch a new job board that will be available to businesses to list available openings and to residents for job openings specific to Rowan County,” Crider said. “We’re hoping to launch that after the first of the year once it’s done with development.”

The job board, Crider said, is a tangible and immediate way that the residents of the county can benefit from Forward Rowan. The creation of the job board was requested and funded by one specific community businesses partner, Crider said.

Crider also pointed to several recent announcements as proof that Forward Rowan is off to a strong start.

In August, Continental Structural Plastics announced that it would invest $45 million to expand its existing operations in Rowan County and would add 61 new jobs. In October, Eastern Fence unveiled its plans to invest $17.5 million to locate a manufacturing and distribution center at the Mid-South Industrial Park on Statesville Boulevard that will create 142 jobs. In December, Integro Technologies declared their intent to invest $2.67 million to expand their headquarters on South Main Street and generate 30 jobs.

Those recent announcements, which total $65 million in capital investments and 233 new jobs, contribute to the Rowan EDC’s goal of adding 2,500 jobs and $350 million in capital investment by the end of 2024. Crider said that the EDC has discussed creating an online tracker so that the public can see its progress.

As the Rowan EDC continues to facilitate economic growth in the county, the organization will also keep pursuing partnerships with local businesses.

Before the campaign started, the initial goal was to reach $1.5 million in capital investment. Once the COVID-19 pandemic began, those hopes were tampered.

Crider said that many companies had to divert all of their attention into responding to COVID-19, which meant some were unable to participate in Forward Rowan. He said that he is hoping that some of those businesses will be able to contribute once the pandemic has begun to subside.

“We felt like there were still a lot of people that we hadn’t been able to connect with regarding their involvement in the campaign, people who showed interest but for whatever reason we weren’t able to connect,” Crider said. “You can attribute a lot of that to COVID.”

Crider said that the EDC is in the process of contacting around 30 businesses and that the fundraising campaign might not be completely finished until March.

Carlotta Ungaro, the senior project director for Convergence Nonprofit Solutions, has helped lead the Forward Rowan fundraising efforts. She said that she is looking forward to continuing the campaign and is optimistic about raising more money in the new year.

“We know a number of the companies we talked to plan to invest some time next year, depending on how quickly the COVID recovery starts,” Ungaro said. “It could be an opportunity that we reach $1.5 million by the end of next year.”

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