Rowan EDC Annual Meeting Proves Rowan County is Not a One Hit Wonder

It was an amped up afternoon up in Downtown Salisbury on Thursday for the Rowan EDC’s 3rd Annual Meeting at the F&M Trolley Barn. Forward Rowan investors, community partners, private sector and government leaders, and others joined together to celebrate Rowan County’s economic development successes of 2022 and the people who made them happen.

Guests arrived on the unseasonably warm day to a rockin’ playlist and enjoyed networking prior to the program. President of the Rowan EDC, Rod Crider, welcomed everyone and kicked off the festivities with an overview of where Rowan County has come from and where we are today.

“In my annual report message on your table, I talk about a tipping point being the magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crossed a threshold and spreads like wildfire,” said Crider. “And boy is Rowan County on fire right now. It didn’t happen suddenly, but it is the result of many people working for many years to get us to this point. As our past chair Luke Fisher has said, we are a 25-year overnight success.”

He went on to say how 2022 marked the year in which Rowan reached a tipping point and moved from laggard to leader in the region’s economy.

Some of the highlights of 2022 included the addition of almost 2,900 new jobs and $600 million in new capital investment from new and existing businesses. The big announcement that Macy’s Inc. planned a 1.4 million square foot distribution facility creating 2,800 new jobs and an investment of over half a billion dollars was recognized for being the largest project announcement in Rowan County’s history.

Also in 2022, there were several existing business expansions including Stout Heating and Air, Henkel, New York Air Brake, Eastern Fence, and others. Approximately two-thirds of Rowan’s growth comes from existing businesses.

Last year the average wages in Rowan County also exceeded $50,000 for the first time ever. This was the 5th highest average wages in the metro region and 14th highest in the state of North Carolina.
“We are also targeting specific industries that present great growth opportunities and have directed our marketing campaigns to them,” said Crider. “These include value-added agriculture and the electric vehicle supply chain.”

Developers are flocking to Rowan County with announcements of over 22 million square feet of new speculative space and billions of dollars of new investment making Rowan one of the hottest industrial real estate markets in the area. About 8 million square feet of this space is under construction now. The Rowan EDC is continuing its talent attraction campaign efforts to prepare for the demand of 30,000 new employees these new facilities will generate.

The star of the show at the event was the recipient of the annual Rowan Rock Star award, Tammy Whaley of Duke Energy. Whaley was selected for her efforts to champion Rowan County for decades.

Over the years, she has provided EDC staff with information to help complete project RFIs, attended countless site visits with companies considering Rowan County for their new facilities, as well as brought potential projects to the organization’s attention. She also helped get 12 different Rowan County sites accepted into the Duke Energy Site Readiness Program, which helps identify, assess, improve, and increase awareness of industrial properties in the Duke Energy service territory. Notably three of those participating sites are now home to some of Rowan County’s biggest economic development ‘wins’ including Chewy, Macy’s, and the new I-85 Commerce Center at Webb Road.

Whaley was completely surprised when she took the stage to receive her award, a genuine Fender electric guitar from AXE HEAVEN® with a Rowan Rock Star custom-wrap.

“I am speechless, and this is such an honor,” said Whaley. “I started at Duke Energy 37 years ago in Salisbury. Salisbury has always been so special in my heart. I can remember years and years ago, Steve Fisher, Greg Edds, and I talking about Salisbury being next in line for growth. In Rowan County we are so there. There’s nothing that I’ve ever wanted so badly; for Rowan County to really shine and, like Rod said, I really feel like this past year has been that catalyst. I should not be honored to be working with you guys because it’s such an honor for me to work in this county and to do what I do. You’ve got an amazing team, an amazing group of people that live in this county, that support this county. It’s just my privilege and my honor, thank you!”

Awards were also given to retiring directors Greg Anderson who served from 2018-2022 and Denise Hallett for serving from 2017-2022. Luke Fisher of Carroll Fisher Construction was also recognized as being the immediate past chair of the board.

Lastly the event featured keynote speaker Didi Caldwell of Global Location Strategies in Greenville, South Carolina. Caldwell is a leading global site selection authority, and for most of the last 20 years has dedicated herself to assisting corporations with their location strategy. Global Location Strategies is one of the world’s most experienced and reputable site selection firms specializing in capital and resource-intensive facilities.

“It struck me that Rowan County has basically won the Powerball,” said Caldwell. “For me the Powerball on industrial sites is good quality roads and interstates, high voltage electric transmission lines, interstate natural gas transmission lines, water which you have tons of literally, and wastewater treatment capacities. The Powerball is the workforce that you have available from the larger population centers that are so close by. So, you have a little bit lower cost, a little bit more land, you can take advantage of all the industrial infrastructure and draw on the workforce that is in your surrounding area. And then by the way you also have the added benefit of rail in certain parts of the county. I think you have great prospects and I’m really excited to see what else is going to happen here in Rowan County.”

The event was sponsored by F&M Bank and Miller Davis, Inc.