The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

December 3, 2012

Stanly COG receives list of liabilities, assets for boosting economic development

By Brian Graves, Staff Writer

Sunday, December 2, 2012 — Stanly County Council of Governments (COG) heard the good and the bad about what it will take to boost economic development.

The good news is the county has many great assets to sell to potential industries.

The bad news is there is going to be the need for patience and money to make the prospects brighter.

Tuesday’s presentation was an economic development readiness review prepared by what Stanly County Economic Development Commission (EDC) Director Paul Stratos called “a highly regarded site selection and economic development consultant.”

“This is important for the EDC and also for the community at large,” Stratos said.

He explained as the county was going through the Duke site readiness program earlier this year, there were broader questions about the county’s economic readiness.

“Duke Energy really took that message to heart and said, ‘We think we can help you with some of these issues and get somebody in to look at utility coordination and infrastructure issues,’” Stratos said.

He said Duke Energy had really “stepped up to the plate for Stanly County.”

“They are giving us the opportunity to look at Stanly County the way that an economic development consultant or a site selection consultant would look at our county and get some perspective about where we are in relation to other communities around the southeast and around the country. That’s very valuable going forward,” Stratos said.

Tammy Whaley, who is the Duke Energy economic development representative for the county, showed enthusiasm for the county and the project.

“We believe in Stanly County,” Whaley said.

“You have a list of products here that is longer than any list I have seen when I go outside of this county. You have opportunity here.”

She said there is a difference in the county she had not seen or felt in the past that bodes well for the county’s successes.

Jeannette Goldsmith of J. Goldsmith and Co. provided the presentation of the report she had prepared.

She explained that it was “a view from 30,000 feet” and not one that went into as many specifics as could be available at a later date.

In her summary, Goldman broke the categories into five subjects: sites, transportation, utilities, workforce and other.

The positive news about sites is the county has access to rail infrastructure, land is affordable and there is a “decent inventory of sites.”

Challenges involved with sites within the county is the existing buildings have limited potential and not all sites are adequately served by utilities.

Stanly County includes good four-lane arteries with N.C. 24/27 and U.S. 52.

There is a good connection to Charlotte and the county has good rail infrastructure.

However, Goldsmith pointed out the distance to the interstate can be a hinderance to new industry as well as not the best of access to air service.

“Most would not want to drive a large truck on Highway 52 North and risk hitting a student,” Goldsmith said referring to the way the highway runs through the Pfeifer University campus in Misenheimer.

The county has good access to water and electric infrastructure that can support manufacturing operations.

But, Goldsmith said the problem of multiple types of sewer collection systems used throughout the county can cause confusion and some of the existing systems have not been adequately maintained.

She also cited there is a lack of wastewater treatment capacity and the entire county is not served by natural gas.

Stanly County gets a positive review on its workforce.

Goldsmith said Stanly Community College is a “real asset” in developing a good workforce.

She also said there was almost unanimous opinion the workers in the county embody a good work ethic.

The problem industries would face include a stagnate population which does not expand the potential employee base.

There is also evidence many have left for jobs outside of the county causing a “brain drain.”

Goldsmith ended her presentation saying the county has “an incredible quality of life” that can be sold to potential industries along with a good health care infrastructure and the low cost of doing business.