A partnership between Haywood County and Canton may be just the ticket to selling the final parcel at the Beaverdam Industrial Park, just off I-40 near Canton.
In 1993, the two entities purchased a 103-acre parcel serve as a place where industry could locate in Haywood. Since that time, three businesses have moved into the park, generating $500,000 in taxes annually, Haywood County Program Administrator David Francis told the county commissioners.
The county spent $700,000 a dozen years ago to prep a 10-acre “shovel-ready” building pad in the industrial park. There have been plenty of lookers, but nary a buyer. Francis told the commissioners last week having water and sewer services available onsite could make the difference.
The county has been a finalist for three companies looking for a place to relocate, but the site’s lack of water, sewer, electricity and gas are stumbling blocks, Francis said.
The county applied for a Golden Leaf grant to extend water and sewer services, but a specific company is needed first. Waiting until that happens would delay a move-in date.
The county is ineligible for state grants because it is ranked a Tier 3, which is one of the more prosperous rankings. State grants are most often earmarked for economically distressed counties.
A price quote from McGill Associates of Asheville showed the cost for the water/sewer extensions would be between $232,000 and $250,000.
As Francis was discussing the project with Canton Town Manager Jason Burrell, the duo came up with a proposal whereby the town would do the labor to extend the lines if the county would cover the materials cost.
New estimates showed the materials, piping, permitting process through the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and a site survey showing where the lines should go would cost $110,000.
At a meeting last week, the county commissioners voted to cover the $110,000, and two days later, the Canton governing board authorized Burrell to use the town crew to do the work.
“It’s a good partnership,” Francis told the commissioners, noting a company that would bring in 200 jobs is continuing to look at the site.
“We’re one of three left,” Francis said of the entities still vying for the project.
Commissioner Kirk Kirkpatrick said the offer was one that was “extremely hard to pass up.”
The board voted 4 to 1 to approve the project, with Commissioner Mark Pless dissenting.
Pless later said he objected on the grounds that he opposed the COVID-19-related budget cuts that resulted in postponing employee raises.
“I personally think the first item we invested in should have been our employees, not running a water and sewer line to a piece of property we have no buyer for or business committed to build on,” Pless said in an email. “We as a board can say thank you to our employees, however, it seems pretty insincere when a water line seems more important than their sacrifices.”
As Burrell explained the project to the town board last week, he said there were two schools of thought on enhancing the Beaverdam site.
“It’s a benefit to the site in terms of having it completely prepped and ready for a new development,” Burrell said. “One thought is, ‘build it and they will come.’ The other is, ‘let’s wait for them to get interested and then build.’”
The waiting option is that a good prospect could be lost because the company didn’t want to wait for the work to be done, he said.
“In partnering with the county, we’re trying to be proactive,” Burrell said.
He later estimated that if the town crew spent four to five weeks on the project, the value would be between $18,000 and $25,000. However, the out-of-pocket costs to the town will be negligible since the crew will do the work during down time between other jobs.
There is no certain time frame for town employees to do the work, Burrell said, except that it will likely be done in the next three months.
Canton Mayor Zeb Smathers called the action a bold move to be prepared for growth and refocus attention on smart growth and job creation.