Rowan EDC reports hundreds of new jobs, millions of dollars in capital investment during active 2021

Published 12:01 am Friday, January 14, 2022

SALISBURY — As economic activity hastened in 2021, the Rowan Economic Development Commission says it helped generate hundreds of new jobs and millions in investment in Rowan County.

Based in Salisbury, the Rowan EDC is dedicated to helping economic activity in Rowan County by assisting existing businesses, attracting new companies and promoting workforce development. Rowan EDC officials say they had six major economic development project “wins” in 2021 that led to 284 new jobs and combined capital investment of $33.5 million.

Hexagon Agility announced plans to create 75 new jobs and invest $28 million through a physical expansion of its Salisbury facility. PowerHouse Recycling announced 50 new jobs and $5 million in investment. Imperial Supplies bolstered its Rowan County footprint by moving into a 150,000-square-foot facility at the Granite Industrial Park and growing its workforce by 20%.

MaxLife added a second manufacturing plant and customer service headquarters in Rowan County and added to its workforce. Snow Joe added a second shift and hired for more than 50 positions to meet market demand. The Rowan EDC also helped facilitate FCR Call Center’s expansion into Rowan County. The customer service company offers remote work and does not have a physical location.

“It was a good year considering what all we dealt with and challenges we faced in 2021,” Vice President Scott Shelton said.

Rowan County lost two manufacturers in 2021. The two departures the Rowan EDC is aware of are Promats Athletics and Salisbury Machinery.

The number of wins represents a fraction of the economic projects that Rowan County was in competition to land. Shelton told the China Grove Town Council last week the Rowan EDC had 156 project leads in 2021, which averages out to over two new leads per week. A “lead” is when Rowan County is a candidate for a business expansion or a new facility. Many of the leads the Rowan EDC receives are generated through the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.

“If it’s not the highest total we’ve had for a year, it’s awfully close to it,” Shelton said. “I think everybody came roaring out of the pandemic with a lot of pent up stuff.”

Of those 156 project leads, Shelton said Rowan County qualified for 124, meaning the county was able to offer a building, site or assistance to a company looking to expand. Those leads generated 15 in-person visits during which company representatives physically traveled to Rowan County, usually to tour a site and meet with the Rowan EDC or other county leaders. Shelton said in-person visits increased in 2021 after being almost nonexistent in 2020, when the pandemic brought non-essential travel to a standstill.

While Shelton attributes the flurry of activity to the pandemic delaying progress for several months, Rowan County’s position in the growing Charlotte region was another factor. Real estate along I-85 has been especially in demand.

“Virtually every interchange along I-85 where there is available land, there is a development going on there,” Rowan EDC President Rod Crider said. “With the exception of say Innes Street in Salisbury.”

NorthPoint, the company that constructed Chewy’s fulfillment center, is raising a large speculative building on Webb Road. Silverman, a New Jersey based developer, is constructing an even bigger multi-building distribution center on exit 68.

With more interest coming as Charlotte expands, Crider said the Rowan EDC plans on dialing back its pursuit of new companies.

“We’re going to probably scale back some of the other business attraction activities just a little bit because of all the demand we are seeing naturally that’s coming from these new buildings and developers who have shown interest in our county,” Crider said. “But we’re not going to let off our efforts and will continue to highlight all of the advantages of Rowan County for new and existing businesses.”

The new challenge, Crider said, will be working to control growth to ensure that municipalities in the county have the infrastructure and housing to meet the new industry.

Entering the new year, Crider said the Rowan EDC’s will continue to focus on workforce development and talent attraction. According to data from the N.C. Department of Commerce, Rowan County has a little over 2,000 unemployed people in its 66,000-person labor force. With the potential for several projects bringing thousands of jobs to Rowan County, having enough skilled workers may be a challenge.

“If some of these (projects) come to fruition, we’re going to need a lot more workers than we have now,” Crider said.

The Rowan EDC in 2021 launched a job portal for employment seekers to have an aggregated list of open positions in Rowan County. About 2,000 jobs are listed on the website currently.

Along with its typical functions, the Rowan EDC last year continued to generate funding through its Forward Rowan campaign. The Rowan EDC was previously funded solely by public entities, but switched to a public-private partnership in 2020. Last year, the Rowan EDC reached $1.45 million in funding from its private partners, surpassing its “stretch goal” of $1.25 million.