Laurels: Public investment can jump-start bigger job announcements

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 18, 2021

Laurel to the news last week that MaxLife Industries plans to add 55 jobs and expand its existing footprint in the county.

The announcement is proof that the business climate is good in Salisbury and Rowan County and getting better. It’s a good place to move or expand your business, and there are new and existing jobs that pay a livable wage — an average of $14 to $18 per hour for the MaxLife jobs.

Rowan County residents looking for a job, however, would be excused for looking at news from our southern neighbors with envy. In Concord, Red Bull is part of a deal to bring hundreds of jobs with an average salary north of $50,000 to the site of an old Phillip Morris plant. With a combined investment of $740 million by 2027, the company best known for its energy drinks is part of the biggest economic development announcement in Cabarrus County’s history.

Back in Rowan County, local leaders have been successful in bringing more jobs to the community, but the jobs usually don’t have the same kind of salaries folks in Concord are looking forward to.

Training and education for workers and the capacity to provide both are barriers here to the proliferation of jobs with $50,000 salaries. That’s why investment such as Rowan-Cabarrus Community college’s advanced technology education complex are critical. The complex will build a facility for Rowan County Early college as well as new automotive, welding and CNC machining space. Programs will also expand inside of existing space. A bond referendum in 2020 passed with a price tag of $45 million. While that price tag might seem high to the “no” voters, public investments often provide a jump-start for the private sector to do the same — often far exceeding tax money required at the outset.

Rowan County probably won’t ever become a hub for high-paying science or technology jobs, but local leaders should always look for new ways to invest in education and training so that other communities can begin looking at job announcements here with envy, too. Existing programs can provide higher-paying jobs probably could benefit from a redoubled publicity effort.

Another sign of growth, Laurel to the news that a 230-home development is proposed near the intersection of Rowan Mill Road.

The homes are projected to have price tags that vary widely — from the $200,000s to the upper $300,000s. Amid a still-hot housing market, they’ll be a welcome addition for those who have been unsuccessfully searching for a home. The investment will bring additional tax revenue local governments can use to improve public services, too.

People who live off of or travel along Mooresville Road regularly may express concerns about the added traffic 242 homes will produce. Their concerns, however, can also be used to advocate for an expedited widening of Mooresville Road — a project that’s been delayed but already on the radar of N.C. Department of Transportation officials.