Doubling up: Rowan Vocational Opportunities construction expands operational footprint

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, October 31, 2023

SALISBURY — By next May, Rowan Vocational Opportunities plans to have doubled the size of its Salisbury facility. Representatives of the organization commemorated the initiation of the construction process with a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday.

Rowan Vocational Opportunities Executive Director Gary Yelton said that the expansion would add another 17,000 square feet to the building.

“It’s going to be connected to the existing production facility wall to wall,” Yelton said. “It will be the same width and height as the current building. It will look just like it.”

Rowan Vocational Opportunities, Inc. is a non-profit rehabilitation facility with the purpose of providing work adjustment, vocational training and long-term or transitory employment and life skills for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities.

“We provide a safe environment with trained professionals who help them be as successful as possible,” Yelton said. “(In) The existing warehouse, we have pallets in the aisles that should not be there. We are bursting at the seams, and the existing facility is just not adequate.”

Rowan Vocational Opportunities Director of Community Affairs Wilson Cherry added, “We have to consider safety as one of the byproducts. We have people in wheelchairs and so forth. You have to make sure they are unencumbered moving around the building.”

The organization currently serves more than 160 people between its two locations (Concord), with more than 100 of those working out of the Salisbury facility.

Most of the work done at Rowan Vocational Opportunities is for outside companies. A lot of assembly is required, so several thousand square feet of the facility are for warehouse storage.

“The new building will have three new loading docks and a ramp to the outside,” Yelton said.

The expansion was made possible by grants and donations.

“We did receive grants from several folks, the big one being the Cannon Foundation,” Yelton said. “Local foundations like the Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation and the Margaret C. Woodson Foundation also helped.”

Yelton also said the Food Lion and F&M Bank contributed to the campaign.

At present, Rowan Vocational Opportunities is using a pipeline system for new clients. With only so much space, several people are on a waiting list.

Cherry explained some of them have been on that list for a long time and hopes that the expansion will allow them to offer positions to more people. The organization has seen an uptick in senior citizens seeking work. Representatives are eager to be able to offer those individuals positions within Rowan Vocational Opportunities.

It’s important for the organization’s mission to be able to expand resources to those who are not able to get them through other avenues.

“One of the key elements is the training that our employees consistently go through and working with individuals with intellectual disabilities,” Cherry said. “Everything from first aid and CPR to dealing with psychological issues and defensive driving. It is a lot of upgrading the skills of our employees who work directly with our consumers.”

Cut-Rite Builders are fulfilling the construction contract.

“They are a local company,” Yeldon said. “We have done work with them in the past.”

Cherry and Yelton both remarked that the construction phase would not hamper the organization’s current production output.

Rowan Vocational Opportunities is located at 2728 Old Concord Road in Salisbury.