Sanford isn’t in Chatham County. But economic development doesn’t cut off at the borders, either.
In recognition, the governments of that city and county have officially partnered on a project that could boost economic opportunity across central North Carolina and beyond, all on the strength of shared assets.
“Every community has its own assets, its own special unique things that make it different,” Sanford Mayor Chet Mann said while pointing to his city’s healthy capacity for sewer and water service, which came into play when the Moncure Megasite went online 15 miles away in Chatham County.
“So this was an opportunity to really look at solving a problem that involved more than one jurisdiction,” said Diana Hales, a Chatham County commissioner.
Sanford, being so close, clearly could benefit from the opportunities of a megasite filled with industry. And the city’s capacity to serve the site with water and sewer made it an attractive partner. After collaborating with Hales’ board, the city has agreed to provide a 12-mile wastewater line to the 2,500-acre piece of land to serve any entity, such as a major manufacturer, that chooses to move there.
“If the Moncure Megasite becomes active, we will have an enormous growth driver in this part of Chatham County and spill over into Lee, Harnett and Wake (counties),” said Hales.
Helping the effort is a Golden LEAF Foundation grant awarded to the city from an initiative meant to help North Carolina’s megasites become shovel-ready and prime for large employers, such as original equipment manufacturers.
Officials are talking in terms of thousands of jobs. And to site selectors, they’re touting what makes the megasite so convenient.
According to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, a state entity now marketing the land, 1.35 million workers live within a 50-mile radius. “Within a one-day truck drive” are more than 150 million consumers. Nearby are three top-tier universities. Drive-time to the state’s capital city is just 45 minutes. Electricity cost-rates are lower than average, and so are construction costs. With that, economic developers also spotlight North Carolina’s ranking of number-one in the Southeast United States for manufacturing jobs.
In a promotional video, Barry McClelland, a former Honda of America Manufacturing facilities manager with three decades of major site-vetting experience, called the Moncure property “probably the best megasite I’ve seen over that 30-year career.”
Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, dean of engineering at N.C. State University, said “one would be very hard pressed to find a better location with a better set of human resources and capabilities than what would be in such close proximity to this site.”
The teamwork going into the Chatham County location also fits well with Lee County’s Central Carolina Enterprise Park, another certified industrial site that too involves Sanford city government along with private-sector collaboration.
“So what we’ve learned is when we put our joint assets and interests together, we can go a lot further,” said Mann.
Officials expect the Moncure Megasite to be ready for business by the end of 2019.