SALISBURY — As economic activity picked up in 2021, the Rowan Economic Development Commission says it has helped generate hundreds of new jobs and millions of investments in Rowan County.
Based in Salisbury, the Rowan EDC is dedicated to supporting economic activity in Rowan County by helping existing businesses, attracting new businesses and promoting workforce development. Rowan EDC officials say they won six major economic development projects in 2021, which led to the creation of 284 new jobs and combined capital investments of $33.5 million.
Hexagon Agility has announced plans to create 75 new jobs and invest $28 million in the physical expansion of its Salisbury plant. PowerHouse Recycling announced the creation of 50 new jobs and an investment of $5 million. Imperial Supplies has strengthened its presence in Rowan County by moving into a 150,000 square foot facility in the Granite Industrial Park and increasing its workforce by 20%.
MaxLife added a second manufacturing facility and customer service headquarters in Rowan County and increased its workforce. Snow Joe added a second shift and hired over 50 positions to meet market demand. The Rowan EDC also helped facilitate the expansion of the FCR Call Center in Rowan County. The customer service company offers remote work and does not have a physical location.
“It’s been a good year considering everything we’ve been through and the challenges we’ve faced in 2021,” Vice Chairman Scott Shelton said.
Rowan County lost two manufacturers in 2021. The two departures that Rowan EDC is aware of are Promats Athletics and Salisbury Machinery.
The number of wins represents a fraction of the economic projects Rowan County was competing to land. Shelton told China Grove City Council last week that Rowan EDC has 156 projects in mind in 2021, which averages more than two new leads per week. A “lead” is when Rowan County is a candidate for a business expansion or new facility. Many of the leads Rowan EDC receives are generated through the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance.
“If that’s not the highest total we’ve had in a year, it’s awfully close,” Shelton said. “I think everyone came roaring out of the pandemic with a lot of stuff pent up.”
Of those 156 project leaders, Shelton said Rowan County qualified for 124, meaning the county was able to offer a building, site or assistance to a business looking to expand. These leads generated 15 in-person visits in which company representatives physically traveled to Rowan County, typically to visit a site and meet with Rowan EDC or other county leaders. Shelton said in-person visits increased in 2021 after being nearly non-existent in 2020, when the pandemic halted non-essential travel.
While Shelton attributes the flurry of activity to the pandemic that set back progress for months, Rowan County’s position in the growing Charlotte area was another factor. Real estate along I-85 was in particular demand.
“Virtually every interchange along I-85 where there is available land, there is development going on there,” Rowan EDC President Rod Crider said. “With the exception of, say, Innes Street in Salisbury.”
NorthPoint, the company that built Chewy’s distribution center, is raising a large speculative building on Webb Road. Silverman, a New Jersey-based developer, is building an even larger multi-building distribution center at Exit 68.
With more interest as Charlotte expands, Crider said Rowan EDC plans to slow down its search for new businesses.
“We’re probably going to scale back some of the other business attraction activity a little bit because of all the demand we’re seeing naturally from these new buildings and developers who have shown interest in our county,” Crider said. “But we won’t let up on our efforts and will continue to highlight all of Rowan County’s benefits to new and existing businesses.”
The new challenge, Crider said, will be controlling growth to ensure municipalities across the county have the infrastructure and housing they need to respond to the new industry.
As the new year dawns, Crider said Rowan’s EDCs will continue to focus on workforce development and talent attraction. According to data from the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Rowan County has just over 2,000 unemployed people in its labor force of 66,000. With the potential for multiple projects bringing thousands of jobs to Rowan County, getting enough skilled workers can be a challenge.
“If some of these (projects) come to fruition, we will need a lot more workers than we have right now,” Crider said.
The Rowan EDC launched in 2021 a job portal for job seekers to have an aggregated listing of vacancies in Rowan County. About 2,000 jobs are currently listed on the website.
Alongside its typical duties, the Rowan EDC continued to generate funds through its Forward Rowan campaign last year. The Rowan EDC was previously funded solely by public entities, but transitioned to a public-private partnership in 2020. Last year, the Rowan EDC reached $1.45 million in funding from its private partners, surpassing its “ambitious goal” of $1.25 million.