Business mega-site project promises economic growth

Apr. 02, 2013 @ 04:59 AM

Although the potential benefits are still years away, officials indicated recently that a proposed 1,625-acre business mega-site just outside Siler City may have huge ecomomic implications for miles around.

"It could just be a huge breakthrough for Chatham County and all the counties around it," said Bud Marchant, president of Central Carolina Community College and an ex-officio member of the Chatham County Economic Development Corporation.

Chatham officials are now going through the paperwork to get the area officially classified as a N.C. Certified Site, which would let interested companies access a wealth of information related to the site, such as its infrastructure and physical and environmental characteristics. Both the Siler City Board of Town Commissioners and the Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted on resolutions supporting the mega-site in March.

Marchant, whose college has campuses in Siler City and Pittsboro, in addition to Sanford and Lillington, is familiar with the concept and ramifications of such sites. Prior to taking over as CCCC president about five years ago, Marchant worked for a multi-campus community college in South Carolina, where he said he witnessed the growth created by a BMW plant in Spartanburg.

He said that in addition to the jobs created on the site itself, many companies that do work with the auto company moved to the area to be closer to the plant. And although it's still unclear what company or companies would come to the Siler City location — if any come at all — Marchant isn't the only one who's expressing excitement about the prospect.

Siler City Town Manager Bryan Thompson said the mega-site, which would be built on land owned by Tim Booras and D.H. Griffin Construction founder D.H. Griffin Sr., would add jobs, tax base and other revenue sources to the small town in northwest Chatham County. The 1,625 acres are mainly in an extra-judicial territory of Siler City, he said, with a small sliver extending into Randolph County.

"With the prospect of jobs, the ability to sell more (water and sewer) utilities, those are both positive things for Siler City and other surrounding communities," he said.

Chatham County EDC executive director Dianne Reid said she's not sure exactly how many jobs would be created, but that single-user sites typically generate 750-1,250 jobs per 1,000 acres. Using that math, a 1,625-acre site could generate 1,200-2,000 jobs, not to mention the secondary jobs in industries like service, supply and distribution. Reid said each manufacturing job typically leads to about three secondary jobs.

According to the Triangle Business Journal, the proposed mega-site would be the largest in the state by close to 600 acres and would be well-suited to become either a single-company site or an industrial park. For comparison, the Lee County Industrial Park — which houses Caterpillar, Pfizer and Zurn — is about 450 acres, or one-fourth the size of the potential Chatham County site.

Thompson, Reid and Marchant all stressed that the project is far from a done deal, and that they don't even know what might go in — although they all said manufacturing would be the obvious and preferable choice. Many jobs could go to locals and people from the nearby Triad and Triangle regions, but Marchant said he thinks Lee County residents would benefit as well if the site does come to fruition.

"It really would allow us to grow the manufacturing base of all of Central Carolina, but like I said, you've got several hurdles to get over — and then you've got to market the mega-site."