Albemarle selects NJR Group to build infrastructure for new Business Center

The Albemarle City Council has awarded NJR Group, a construction company based in New London, the bid to begin constructing the infrastructure for the Albemarle Business Park.

The council decided between NJR Group and J.T. Russell & Sons, which were the only two companies who submitted bids for the project. Each listed a baseline bid, along with up to three alternative bids.

The business park is a roughly 282 acres at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 52 and N.C. Highway 24-27 that can hold up to 2.5 million square feet of industrial and warehouse space.

The scope of the work needed involves the construction of a new road through the business center with the main entrance off U.S. Highway 52 and connecting with Henson Street, extending the water and sewer lines to the site and increasing the water line size to 16-inches.

The business center will eventually also include curb and gutter, street lights, professional signage at the main entrance and at the Henson Street entrance and landscaping of entry areas and plantings of trees and/or foliage along the roadway,

There were eight bid summaries that council could choose from. They ultimately selected NJR Group for the baseline bid plus three alternatives which totaled $6,486,355, about $114,000 less than J.T. Russell & Sons.

“These are the tightest bids I’ve ever received,” said Stephen Chambers of Chambers Engineering, which has been working with the city on the design of the business center.

When it came time to vote to approve NJR Group’s bid, it passed, though Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall and Councilwoman Martha Hughes opposed it.

City Manager Michael Ferris said there will also be improvements on the U.S. Highway 52 side of the property to construct a turn lane. He said this will allow Albemarle to begin marketing the site for businesses and job creation.

Albemarle was awarded a $750,000 grant by the state’s Department of Commerce Rural Economic Development Grant Program, which can be used to help offset costs of road construction for the business center. The city can also utilize part of its $4.75 million it will receive as part of the federal American Rescue Plan (it will initially receive half of the total funds) to help pay for the water and sewer work.

“We have discussed it several times as a possible use of approximately half the funding, but no formal action has been taken to utilize funds for this purpose,” Ferris said, noting the city has not received any ARP funds.

During the city council’s Dec. 21, 2020 meeting, the council approved a phased buildout of the park, which included construction on only the front section of the industrial park, partial road build and provided infrastructure to the property. The estimated cost of this at the time was around $8 million.

“This project is a major part of the economic development strategy for the residents of the City of Albemarle and also for all of Stanly County,” said Economic Development Director Keith Tunnell in an email, noting that the center “will provide 170 usable acres for new industrial development that will allow us to compete for manufacturing projects that are much needed in this community and provide good, high-paying jobs, for our residents.”

In a presentation during a community meeting in early February, Tunnell explained that the construction of the center is set to begin in the third quarter of 2021. Completion projected to occur by third quarter of 2022.

It is estimated to create 2,800 manufacturing jobs and generate under $1 billion in total new investment. Revenues from the new industry could be earmarked to support future downtown development.

“Bringing in good paying jobs will help spur the local economy and help drive development of the downtown, which is another of our key objectives in the coming year,” Tunnell said.