Rowan County is going camping: Commissioners approve sale of land for RV dealership, service center

Published 12:44 pm Tuesday, April 5, 2022

SALISBURY — Campers are coming to Rowan County.

The Rowan County Board of Commissioners on Monday approved the sale of a 40-acre plot at the end of East Ritchie Road near Koontz Elementary School to General RV. The Michigan-based company plans to invest $25 million over the next three years to construct an RV dealership and service center on the land.

“We feel that this site and this community are a very good fit for our business,” said John Balice, director of facilities and development with General RV. “There’s a very strong RV market here, strong employment base and also a need for a high-quality RV dealership. We believe in forming strong, mutually beneficial partnerships and our commitment is to be a premier partner for our customers, our employees and our communities.”

The current closest General RV dealership is in Richmond, Virginia. This will be the company’s first location in North Carolina, according to the General RV website.

The county sold the land through North Carolina General Statute 158-7.1(d), which eliminates the upset bid process requirement and allows for private negotiation for economic development purposes.

General RV’s accepted offer of $2.9 million was almost $1 million more than the appraised value of the land. The money will go to the county’s general fund.

“It’s not like (General RV) got the biggest bargain, even though this is a good site,” Commissioners Vice Chair Jim Greene said.

The county ordered a new appraisal of the property after receiving an offer from another company to purchase the land several months ago. The county was poised to sell the land to that company for its updated appraised value of $1.95 million before General RV made a higher offer, launching a short bidding battle between the two interested parties.

Commissioners weren’t very interested in General RV’s plans for the property initially, Chair Greg Edds said. Although the company is anticipating $150 million worth of sales at the dealership per year, Edds said only $10 million will be taxable for the county. But after the General RV team visited Rowan County and pitched their idea, things started to change.

“Having vetted them, it became more and more apparent this will give us some diversity in what we’re doing up and down the interstate,” Edds said.

Edds said the other company interested in the 40 acres was planning to build a speculative warehouse on the site.

Edds said the Board of Commissioners checked with multiple communities where General RV has established dealerships and received glowing reviews.

“We did a Zoom call with two of the locations where they have these set up and these folks absolutely love General RV,” Edds said.

The board, Edds said, is especially excited about the jobs associated with the dealership. General RV expects to create 150 full-time jobs over the next three years as part of the project. Those new jobs would include positions in a variety of fields such as mechanics, sales, finance and administration. The average annual salary for the 150 positions is expected to be $65,000, which is well above the county’s average private sector wage of $48,360, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

“That’s why we became interested: it’s the high paying jobs, the partnerships and good references we have from multiple communities who really, really love them,” Edds said.

The General RV dealership would also lead to 66 indirect and induced jobs generating $4 million in annual employee wages and benefits, according to Jobs EQ. Those jobs would result in $10.9 million in annual gross revenue for the companies creating those jobs.

The General RV dealership and service center is likely to bring thousands of customers who will spend an average of six hours in Rowan County while visiting their facility, according to the Rowan Economic Development Council. The Rowan County Tourism Development Authority estimates that these 10,000 estimated visitors will translate to $740,000 in visitor spending in the area.

“A lot of those folks come with an appointment on Saturday, so they drive in on Friday night, stay in our hotels, eat in our restaurants,” Edds said.

Rowan County projects to collect $1.6 million in property tax revenue from the land over a 10-year period.

General RV expects the dealership and service center to be completed in approximately 2½ years.

With the land sale to General RV, incentives passed for a 380-acre industrial park on Long Ferry Road and last week’s announcement of a Macy’s e-commerce fulfillment center bringing $584 million in investment and 2,800 jobs, Edds said during the meeting that the past five days “may be the most significant five days, at least from a project standpoint, in Rowan County history.”

In other meeting business:

• Commissioners approved using $22,740 of American Rescue Plan Act funding to purchase 12 scanning stations and necessary licensing for the Department of Social Services “to enhance staff protection from the spread of disease while performing their duties.” The stations will cut down on how many people use scanning stations throughout the day.

• Commissioners approved a request from Sheriff Kevin Auten to offer incentives to “attract and retain” detention officers at the Rowan County Detention Center. The incentives will be for the 2022 calendar year only. There will be a “perfect attendance bonus” to staff who do not “call out” or leave early from a shift without prior written approval. The bonus would be $50 for the first quarter, $100 for the second, $150 for the third and $200 for the fourth. Commissioners also approved allotting $500 per month to purchase snacks and beverages for detention center staff to consume while on duty ending on June 30. Additionally, meals provided to inmates will now be made available to detention center staff free of charge while they are on duty.

• The Board of Commissioners approved allocating $258 to each teacher at Faith Academy Charter School for school supplies to match what is provided to each teacher at Rowan-Salisbury Schools. With 32 teachers each receiving $258, the county will distribute a total of $8,258 to the school.

• Commissioners passed proclamations for Public Safety Telecommunicators Week and Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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