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County commissioners will talk incentives for 1,200-job project

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday will hear more details about a potential economic development deal that could bring 1,200 jobs to Rowan County.

A public hearing about “Project Popcorn” will be held during the commissioners meeting at 3 p.m. Rowan Economic Development Commission Vice President Scott Shelton will deliver a presentation on the incentive package being requested by the organization to help land the company behind the project.

The company — described as a “respected manufacturer” that has been in business for decades — is considering locating a new facility in Rowan County. The company estimates that it would invest $127.5 million in new construction and equipment, along with 1,200 new jobs. That projected job creation total matches the number Chewy promised when it selected Rowan County for its distribution center in 2019. Chewy surpassed that total within a year of opening the site.

At the time, Rowan EDC President Rod Crider said that the news of Chewy’s arrival was the single largest job announcement in county history and Chewy was immediately vaulted in the county’s top-three private employers along with Food Lion and Daimler Trucks.

The company behind “Project Popcorn” appears to have the opportunity to join Chewy and others in the ranks of the county’s top employers. 

Chairman Greg Edds said that the potential to land the company is a result of what the county has done to make itself an alluring destination.

“You practice hard and you get the fundamentals down and then you just execute at game time,” Edds said. “We have not been working on wins, we’ve been working on process and we’ve been working on making sure that those things that are important to companies are the best that they can be in Rowan County and so when those things are in line, then this isn’t as surprising as it once was.”

Shelton will be asking commissioners to consider sweetening the typical incentive package that would be offered to the company.

While the company qualifies for a level three grant, which would have the county return 85% of its new taxes paid on the project for the next five years, the Rowan EDC is asking commissioners to lengthen the grant to 10 years. During the final five years, the company would only receive a grant equal to 50% of the new taxes paid.

“We have a standard grant policy, but the question becomes after that — how much do we want this?” Edds said. “We display the assets that Rowan County has and then we work to try to make it an easy decision.”

The Rowan EDC will also ask commissioners to consider offering a $500,000 equipment grant for “Project Popcorn.” The grant could only be used toward trade-specific equipment or fixtures, or for tenant upfits. It would be structured as a forgivable loan, as long as the company creates and maintains 900 new jobs for a five-year period.

Modeled with a 10-year horizon, Rowan County would retain an estimated $1.84 million of new revenue created by the company choosing the county for its new facility.

People can tune into the meeting from a computer or smartphone by using the following link bit.ly/rowanboc0201. The password to enter the meeting is 020121. People can also join by phone by dialing 602-753-0140, 720-928-9299 or 213-338-8477. The webinar identification number is 952-2747-2486.

Also on the agenda:

• The Rowan Salisbury Board of Education will present three properties to commissioners that the board recently deemed as surplus. Before the Board of Education disposes of the properties, it will offer them to the county. The properties include Enochville Elementary School, Faith Elementary School and a piece of property located at 305 S. Zion St. A new charter school, called Faith Academy, is interested in purchasing the Faith Elementary School building for its own use. Edds said he’s received calls of support for that plan. Having the charter school open at the location would be a “no brainer,” he said.

• Commissioners will consider a request from County Manager Aaron Church to allow him to delegate the authority to sign annual leases at the airport to the airport director.

• Commissioners will consider approving the purchase of RouteMatch software for an upgrade/expansion to the current software for the Rowan Transit System. The software will cost $123,865, but a portion totaling $48,856 has been approved for CARES Act reimbursement by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The entire cost of the software upgrade is within the county’s 2021 budget.

• The board will consider a request from Rowan County Parks and Facilities Director Don Bringle for his department to bring Special Olympics Rowan County under its leadership. The Special Olympics has been led by the Rowan-Cabarrus YMCA, but Rowan County Parks and Recreation has long been an integral part of the program. The move is simply a leadership change, Bringle said.

• Commissioners will consider a request from Bringle to pay McAdams an additional $5,000 for the firm to help the county prepare an application for a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant from the state to help the county build Woodleaf Community Park. McAdams has already been involved in creating a master plan for the park that will be located on the former site of Woodleaf Elementary School.

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