Spirit of Rowan 2022: Interstate 85 expansion continues to spur economic development in Rowan County

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 27, 2022

Historically, Rowan County’s proximity to transportation routes like Yadkin River and the N.C. Railroad has played a major role in its economic viability.

Today, interstate expansion in Rowan and Cabarrus counties continues to factor into the county’s ongoing economic prosperity.

In December 2014, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and then-Gov. Pat McCrory unveiled a 10-year Transportation Improvement Plan, which included the widening of I-85 in southern Rowan County to eight lanes. That project effectively removed the “bottleneck” many had come to endure when commuting between Charlotte and Greensboro.

The interstate expansion for Rowan and Cabarrus counties began just north of Exit 55 and extended about seven miles northeast through Kannapolis and the U.S. 29 connector in China Grove. From there, the interstate just north of Moose Road was extended more than six miles to Exit 68 in Rowan County.

Rowan Economic Development Council President Rod Crider says the expansion is a major factor in many taking a stronger interest in the county.

“Everybody knew that the bottleneck we used to have was an issue for people’s perception of distance and time to Charlotte in particular,” he said.

The more than 13-mile, eight-lane stretch that was expanded in Rowan and Cabarrus counties ultimately shaved off about 25% of the travel time to Charlotte, Crider said.

The interstate expansion aided the area’s ability to reach other markets. In addition to its central location in the state, Rowan County is also ideally nestled between major cities like Miami and New York City or Washington D.C. and Atlanta, Crider said.

The interstate expansion has been a key factor for economic developments in Rowan County, such as the 700,000-square-foot fulfillment center for online pet retailer Chewy.com on Long Ferry Road, for example. Crider said interstate projects help further facilitate the movements of goods and people and open a labor pool for potential developers. He also sees now as an opportune time to benefit from the current trend toward e-commerce and the demand for speedy delivery of goods.

Crider said developments are being planned for every exit in Rowan County at this time except Exit 76, which leads straight to Innes Street in downtown Salisbury and is already bustling with commercial activity. In September, county commissioners approved a tax incentive agreement to bring a 675,000-square-foot distribution or manufacturing facility to Webb Road, which will be called the “I-85 Commerce Center.”

Additionally, commissioners also signed off on a project in January to construct an e-commerce fulfillment center in the southern area of the state, near Exit 68 in China Grove. It was heralded as Rowan County’s largest jobs announcement ever as the project proposes the creation of 2,500 full-time and 2,600 seasonal part-time jobs.

In February 2022, Rowan’s Rep. Harry Warren stated he and Sen. Carl Ford, who represents Rowan and Stanly counties, would be advocating for the creation of an interchange at McCanless Road and I-85, connecting East Spencer and High Rock Lake for future development.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com or call her at 704-797-4246.

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