ROCKINGHAM — The main thing potential companies are looking for when scouting locations: a building.
That’s according to Richmond County Economic Developer Martie Butler, who told the Board of Commissioners on Tuesday that three new businesses have made site visits, one of which was earlier in the day.
Butler said RCED has been awarded a $2 million loan from Pee Dee Electric for the construction of another shell building, which will be located next to Laticrete in the Richmond County Industrial Park, just outside Hamlet on the U.S. 74 Bypass.
The funding is expected to come through in June, according to Butler.
“Obviously we want to get the ball rolling as quickly as possible,” she said, adding that supplies and lead times can be six months to a year.
The planned 40,000 square-foot building will be the county’s sixth.
“The inventory right now — not just in Richmond County, but across the state — is at an all-time low,” Butler said. “There’s so few buildings that are available, they request shell buildings that can be completed by the end of the year.”
Butler said she feels that having a shell building — and the county’s track record for building facilities — gives Richmond County “a leg up.”
After posting the information about the building on a state property website, Butler said there have been requests to up-fit.
“When you start up-fitting buildings, the price tag can get a little much for a small local government,” Butler said, adding that the estimate for one spec up-fit was around $15 million — about seven times the amount of a normal building.
Impact Plastics, which already had a site on County Home Road, opened a second location at the fifth shell building in 2020.
Last month, the county deeded an 0.865-acre strip of land so Impact could expand its original location.
The first four shell buildings are occupied by General Glass, CAI Inks, Latham Pool and Piedmont Natural Gas — all in the Rockingham West Industrial Park.
In addition to a building, Butler said other key components industries are looking for are heavy power, water and wastewater.
Earlier in the meeting, commissioners approved the sale of 55 acres of land in the Richmond County Industrial Park to Everett Industrial Park LLC for $825,000.
The contract is not included in the online version of the agenda packet.
“This is a project that we’re very excited about,” County Manager Bryan Land told commissioners. “Martie and I have been discussing this one for a while.”
According to Butler, following the sale, there will only be a small, 15-20-acre site left in that industrial park.
Land said he and Butler have been “very busy” the past few months “juggling numerous active projects.”
The county has had 23 industry leads from the state, Butler said, much of which, she added, can be attributed to the two recent automotive projects announced in the state, including an electric car plant planned for Chatham County.
Of the three aforementioned companies that have shown interest, Butler said two of them have made three visits.
“Hopefully some of these seeds that we’ve planted will start to grow soon,” Land said.
Butler said several existing industries have expansion plans, with one announcement expected later this month.
However, piggybacking on a statement made by Commissioner Justin Dawkins earlier in the meeting regarding recruitment and retention, Butler said there could possibly be 10 expansions if the businesses could find the workforce.
“Employers … are just trying to be creative … more automation, increasing wages — anything they can do to retain workers,” Butler said. “Workforce has been a huge issue across the board, not only in (the) public sector, but (the) private sector.”
Last month, Butler said, the N.C. Works Commission — a private workforce development board — voted to recommend that the current 23 workforce development boards be consolidated to eight prosperity zones. She added that the realignment is also recommended by the N.C. Department of Commerce and Gov. Roy Cooper.
RCED is also preparing for its annual Raffle at the Rock, which coincides with the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce’s Hoptoberfest at Rockingham Dragway in October.
Proceeds from the raffle go to the Richmond Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit “that has the sole responsibility of fostering economic growth in Richmond County.” The funds will be used for the corporation’s shell building program, industrial park development and maintenance.