Rowan Economic Development Commission touts ‘healthy numbers’ for potential projects
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — Despite financial challenges of 2020, the Rowan Economic Development Commission on Wednesday delivered promising news to the city council about companies interested in relocating or expanding here.
Scott Shelton, vice president of the Rowan EDC, presented during the first day of the Salisbury City Council’s retreat about “healthy numbers” among existing and new companies who want to expand and invest.
The EDC reports a total of 57 submittals, or inquires, were made by companies looking to expand here since July 2020, with six turning into visits. That amounts to an 11% increase compared to the same time last fiscal year, when 74 submittals and 15 visits were made. Of the 57 made to date this year, 10 are within the city of Salisbury.
A total of 120 submittals were made during the 2018-19 fiscal year, but Shelton calls that figure an outlier.
Currently, the EDC has 88 open projects they’re working through, with 20 of those falling within the city’s limits. He said some may fizzle out, but they could include existing companies desiring more employees, which provide opportunities to work with the local colleges for recruitment.
Shelton highlighted four of the most recent expansion projects. Those include the creation of 30 jobs and investment of $2.7 million from Integro Technologies, 35 jobs and $45.2 million in investment from Henkel, 19 jobs and about $400,000 in investment from Team Auto Group and 110 jobs and $1.5 million in investment from Snow Joe + Sun Joe.
Two open projects, Shelton said, should be announced soon. Both are among existing employers in Salisbury, with one estimated to create 56 full-time jobs with benefits and another estimating 25 additional full-time jobs with benefits. One investment would total $2 million. Another amounts to $4 million.
Shelton said new companies entering the city and county are great, but it’s important to stress the importance of the community’s existing companies.
“Our bread and butter and our foundation is our existing companies,” he said.
Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins asked if the EDC requires companies to guarantee a minimum hourly rate of $15 per hour. Shelton said there is no such requirement, but that the EDC is currently working toward incentivizing jobs with an average wage of a little more than $15 per hour with its Forward Rowan plan. He added companies must provide salaries and wages that amount the county’s average wage to receive incentives.
Council member Brian Miller said “putting a floor” on salaries could cost the city an opportunity.
The biggest attraction for companies? Land and buildings, Shelton said.
He outlined five potential sites primed for economic development that are within the city’s limits. Those sites include a 288,000-square-foot facility located at 913 Airport Road, a 101,145-square-foot building at 1325 Litton Drive, a 105,000-square-foot facility at 100 Dolly Madison Road and a 21,924-square-foot building at 465 Airport Road. He added that the Southmark Commercial Center, which runs adjacent to Highway 29 and Long Meadow Drive, has nine available lots for development.
Though buildings may have tenants in them currently, he said, sometimes companies desire a smaller space and don’t mind sharing with other businesses.
Shelton said the EDC has received a few inquiries about using the former Kmart store, which is located 815 E Innes St., to establish call centers. But it’s an area that requires more study.
Shelton said the biggest interest among companies at this time is any land available off Interstate 85, which he attributes to the “spillover” the community is seeing from Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties.
Council members expressed concern with Rowan County’s recent downgrade to the bottom tier in the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s 2021 county distress rankings. Factors to determine the tier status include a county’s average unemployment rate, median household income, percentage growth in population and adjusted property tax base per capita. Local leaders also have attributed it to a hit in the local service industry and the Rowan County’s unemployment rate, which went from 4.02% and No. 57 in the 2020 rankings to 7% and No. 25 in the 2021 rankings.
Though not a “badge of honor,” Shelton said the commission is working to highlight the silver lining a downgrade, which includes higher priority status for state incentives, higher incentive award amounts and lower local grant matches.
City council members will return virtually for the second day of the planning retreat today at 4 p.m. to discuss issues related to the upcoming budget and the city’s priorities moving forward. Locals can tune in to the meeting by visiting salisburync.gov/webcast or the city’s Twitter account at twitter.com/CitySalisburyNC.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.
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