Decision looms on business park
Commissioners could decide as soon as May 14 if they want to back a proposed industrial park along Interstate 85 near Linwood.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Fred McClure brought the issue back to the board for discussion Thursday. Commissioners still have mixed views. Several favored a smaller scale development that would cost the county a $3 million contribution to an infrastructure package.
“We can work out the details if this is still something we still want,” McClure said. “We should not kick the can down the road.”
Commissioners agreed that they want more development details, including how much the land will cost, who will supervise the project, infrastructure costs and grant funding.
The planned industrial park, which would be located south of Belmont Road, has been called one of the state’s top potential megasites larger than 1,000 acres.
The site could be developed in smaller parcels, however, for several businesses. It could cost as much as $12 million to develop the entire site at once with “ready-to-go” pads and $3 million for a smaller footprint.
“Twelve million is too much,” said Commissioner Todd Yates. “We need more details.”
Commissioners want to get their answers from Steve Googe, executive director of the Davidson County Economic Development Commission. EDC has suggested development of two phases of about 488 total acres. Googe has identified grants totaling about $5 million, as well as two loans, which also total about $5 million.
But some of the grant money could be linked to landing a prospect, said County Manager Robert Hyatt. A potential Community Development Block Grant for the City of Lexington could pay for sewer service if there is a commitment from a prospective company.
“You need a business to commit to the site,” Hyatt said. “We have property identified, but we have no plan for it.”
If a company purchases the land, it would take a $200 million business investment for the county to “break even” on costs, said Assistant County Manager Zeb Hanner, and $500 million if the county purchased the land. Costs include debt service for loans, incentives and infrastructure.
Commissioner Billy Joe Kepley said some companies may not be interested in the land.
“We haven’t had a lot of industrial people to build down there and if they get that far, they may go to Rowan County,” Kepley said.
“This land would be worth less than the improvements if no body comes in,” Yates said.
McClure said commissioners owe voters work on creating jobs as they promised when they ran for office.
“It’s our responsibility to provide the amenities and infrastructure for private enterprise for jobs,” McClure said. “We have missed clients because we were not ready.”
Grants: Last year, the Davidson County Economic Development Commission was one of three groups awarded a nearly $1.67 million Megasite Grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Recognition: Site Selection magazine ranked the Lexington-Thomasville area as the nation’s No. 3 small community for corporate projects in 2012. The cities ranked No. 1 in 2010 and 2007. Officials in the two cities have credited their success to an aggressive business recruitment strategy that includes business incentives.