Economic development sites
Cornelius leaders showed N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker eight potential economic development opportunities during a bus tour. Sites are as follows:
• Augustalee, 110 acres
• Mayes property, 90 acres
• Bing property, 86 acres
• Cooke Farms, 82 acres
• Alexander property, 60 acres
• Baker property, 43 acres
• Cornelius Commerce Center, 32 acres
• Cooke property, 25 acres
CORNELIUS – N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker went back to Raleigh with two key takeaways from her Sept. 13 tour of Cornelius: The town has land to develop, but needs another exit off Interstate 77.
Cornelius commissioners held a closed meeting that morning to discuss with Decker the location or expansion of industries and businesses in town. Afterward, they took her on a bus tour, showcasing large tracts of land that could attract major companies to the Charlotte region.
The tour included a stop at the 110-acre Augustalee site, once envisioned as a $515 million development with residential, retail, office and hotel options. It’s now vacant with overgrown vegetation.
Town officials have hope for the site, which was foreclosed on in August 2009. An investment firm, dubbed Augusta Lee Capital Partners LLC, bought the land in March 2012 for $7,350,000, but has yet to develop it. The firm shares the same address as the global headquarters for ACN, a Concord-based telecommunications company.
“We thought it was important to give the secretary some context about the one large tract obviously, but also what goes unnoticed many times is that right in that general area there is approximately 400 acres that is available for development or redevelopment,” Mayor Lynette Rinker said. “So while we have the jewel of what was the Augustalee project, that is just one of many opportunities that open up for development.”
Leaders also discussed with Decker the infrastructure that is available, coming and needed for business growth, particularly the addition of an Exit 27 off I-77.
“You get a clear view across the highway to the 86-acre Cooke Farm site,” Don Harrow, an economic development consultant for the town told Decker at the Augustalee site. “You can see the proximity. Obviously, both those properties would be served by a new interchange.”
Decker joked twice during the tour about the frequency that the topic of the potential interchange came up in conversation.
“At least we’re consistent with our message, right?” Commissioner Chuck Travis quipped.
Rinker said it was important for Decker to not only understand the town’s mission and what it has to offer, but also the challenges Cornelius has, particularly with transportation, so she can take that message back to Raleigh.
Familiarity certainly helps, Decker said, particularly as her department talks weekly with companies considering moving to North Carolina.
“It is extremely helpful to get on the ground and to see and experience it myself,” Decker said. “When that company comes with that site in mind, I can speak much more vocally for you than I would have had I not seen it.”
Decker was pleased to hear from regional partners during her morning in Cornelius. The closed meeting and tour included representatives from the Lake Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation, Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce and Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.
“One of the challenges that many of the communities face in North Carolina is that it’s not always looked at as a partnership,” Decker said. “It is a competition among the players.”
Jeff Edge, a senior vice president with the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, described economic development as a team sport and expressed excitement about the town’s large tracts of land.
“We’re in need of product in North Carolina, particularly on the north side of Charlotte,” Decker said. “As we are talking with firms about expansion in this state and firms that are potentially coming to North Carolina, they love the Charlotte region. And we get specific requests for this area of the region, north of the city.”
While the region has a lack of buildings that are ready to move in, Ryan McDaniels, executive director for the Lane Norman Regional Economic Development Corporation, sees opportunities to attract companies now that there’s increased demand and economic activity.
“Hopefully the next time you see Secretary Decker here, she’s making a big announcement for a company,” McDaniels said.