EDEN — The purchase of a 204.8-acre industrial site by the City of Eden and Rockingham County could propel the city into the spotlight for consideration by big tech industries looking for space to build and grow.
And corporations have already this year shown interest in the site, officials said.
Equipped with ample infrastructure, the $1.5 million site will be a strong contender as the region vies for large corporate clients, such as big data industries like the ones that have considered locating in the county in recent years, economic development officials said.
Located on New Street adjacent to the Weil-McLain and MGM buildings, the site, purchased on Dec. 12, boasts features such as vast water and power resources from the Duke Energy Dan River Site next door, an 8-inch line from Piedmont Natural Gas and fortified broadband capability, said Eden’s Director of Economic Development Mike Dougherty.
The county will reimburse the city for half the cost of the site once the property is annexed into the Eden city limits, which will be finalized at January’s city council meeting.
There’s been an “upswing in data centers looking around because so much is becoming digital,” Dougherty said of prospective takers, noting that in 2008-2009, before the Duke Energy operation was in place, the site made it to the finals for location consideration by tech giants Microsoft, Google and Yahoo.
“What made it attractive (then) was the abundant power,” Dougherty said. “Since that time, the Duke Energy facility was built and there are an awful lot of resources there.”
“In order for the city and county to prosper, we need to take advantage of opportunities to acquire property to add to our list of industrial product,” said Reece Pyrtle, chairman of the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners.
The city and county since August have teamed to lure big corporations to the area with official invitations through a system that allows economic development authorities to angle for corporate clients without knowing exactly who they are.
In such scenarios, a city or county makes a proposal to a corporation that represents itself with a code rather than an actual name, Dougherty said.
“You don’t really know who they are … they give them code names,” he said. “Some of those projects are still active. Sometimes the projects may take a year to come to fruition.”
But once a corporate client decides to make its home at the industrial site, Eden and the county could reap great benefits, including a big infusion of tax dollars and new, high-paying jobs.
And even if a large corporation with fewer jobs in the offing chooses the location, the tax benefit and boon to the community’s economy will spell improved quality of living for residents and attract a younger workforce, officials said.
In fact, “data centers are not huge employers,” Dougherty said, noting that Google’s 2007 initial investment in Caldwell County was “transformative” despite a lower job count.
Google has had a “tremendous impact on the community,” Dougherty said, explaining how the massive corporation invests in community infrastructure and philanthropy.
The Google investment has grown, too, he said of the Lenoir data center complex that has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in expansions.
Eden has long needed a good size industrial site to be in the game, Dougherty said, calling the already established 12.7-acre Eden Industrial Center a healthy smaller site in a city that needs bigger offerings.
A more ample site “certainly gives you more options for people who might want to locate,” he said.
The Duke Energy Economic Development Department will assist Eden and the county in aggressively marketing the site to industrial brokers. The N.C. Department of Commerce and the N.C. Economic Development Partnership will join in that effort.
Eden and the county have scheduled a February trip with site consultants – professionals who assist companies in locating industrial projects.
“The city is pleased to have a large industrial site under its control which will help attract users and enable us to qualify for infrastructure improvement grants as we seek to improve the marketability of the site,” said Eden Mayor Neville Hall.
“Our hope is to land a company there as soon as possible,” Dougherty said.