Spirit of Rowan 2023: Now and then: Rowan County surges into the future, cherishes its heritage

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 26, 2023

By John Carr

We hope readers will find this year’s Spirit of Rowan our best to date. Certainly we are excited to bring it to you. Rowan County is at a rare moment in time. We are not only recovering, but our economic development and job growth are way ahead of where we were just a few years ago. That’s something few would have expected, and even fewer can claim. The recent economic development news is so positive, in fact, it often sounds exaggerated: Millions of square feet of business development, businesses with household names like Macy’s coming and more than 10,000 new jobs being created.

And at the Economic Development Council’s recent annual meeting, keynote speaker Didi Caldwell of Global Location Strategies shed light on some trends that indicate there may be more to come. One comment that certainly made many ears perk up was that we did not need to worry about losing jobs to China — we lost them already. But tables have turned and now China is losing global market share, big projects and job growth. She pointed out that between 2008 and 2017 North America had 30 percent of the world’s mega projects, but from 2018 to 2021 North America leaped to 53 percent of global market share, far outpacing all other regions, including China, which lost significant ground. She describes mega projects as those costing at least $1 billion in capital expense and creating 1,000 or more new jobs.

Bringing that home, North Carolina is a leading destination for many of these mega projects. We are fifth in the entire country in announced projects, and first in manufacturing projects. Even closer to home, Rowan County is considered one the hottest Charlotte area market, if not the hottest, for large projects. Proximity to a major airport, the interstate and Charlotte; not being in a hurricane zone; still being comparatively affordable; and offering an exceptional quality of life make a combination that is hard to beat. The local chamber of commerce and economic development officials have been saying this for years, and now that message seems to be getting through better than ever. All recent EDC goals have been surpassed with big margins.

As much as all of this is exciting, people have been coming here, raising families and staying here for generations prior to the current economic trends. Along with mother nature, it is Rowan families that deserve the majority of credit for making this a desirable place. Generations have worked tirelessly to improve the county they call home. Along the way, a lot of stories have been created, a lot of history made.

In this edition of the Spirit of Rowan, we focus of some of the lesser-known new happenings, such as the recent growth of downtown Landis and Rockwell, along with looking back at some of the lesser-know stories about Rowan’s past that we think everyone here should know. Among the highlights are the Kepley Farmhouse, which has been standing since the early 1800s, how mill towns are reinventing themselves and the contributions that many women have made to Rowan’s history.

Rowan County is a special place and we know we are lucky to be here. We hope you enjoy this year’s Spirit of Rowan, and even if you have spent your life here, we hope you find a few stories that are new to you, and give us all the more reason we all like to call Rowan County home.

John Carr is publisher of the Salisbury Post.