SP Industrial Uses Get Review
Interest in the Southern Pines Corporate Park is increasing as the economy slowly improves, but the recent loss of a lumber wholesaler has prompted a review of permissable uses.
“This is for all industrial-zoned property in Southern Pines, not just the corporate park,” said Chris Jordan, CEO of O’Connor Co. in Aberdeen. “The town understands the concern and is working with us to attract new business to Moore County.”
Jordan underscored the issue last week when he told the Southern Pines Planning Board that the lumber wholesaler went elsewhere after being told that the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code for its industry was not allowed in the park under section 172 of the town’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO).
“We’ve lost some other people as well,” Jordan told the board. “This has been going on for a long time.”
The board voted to allow lumber wholesalers and telephone call centers but will wait until its December meeting to consider adding other industries from the NAICS list. The Town Council must also vote on the issues.
“Some of this stuff would be good for our economy,” board member Joan Strawson said after viewing a partial NAICS list.
NAICS is the standard used by federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy.
It was developed under the auspices of the federal Office of Management and Budget and adopted in 1997 to replace the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system.
Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress, believes that the NAICS review is critical to the park’s future.
“It’s a big deal,” Corso said. “I think we were all surprised when we lost the lumber wholesaler because we thought we had that tenant. He was ready to go. He wanted to be in there yesterday, so he’s gone. We need to do everything we can to ensure it doesn’t happen again, no matter whom the tenant might be.”
Corso doesn’t blame the town or the developer, RAB Investments Inc., which is co-owned by Bob Baillie.
“The town didn’t know, and they’re doing their best to get it right,” Corso said. “And as far as I’m concerned, Bob has done his part. He has invested a lot of money in that park, and it’s really a good thing for Southern Pines and Moore County.”
Both Corso and Jordan acknowledge that the 105-acre park lacks some curb appeal because its infrastructure and roads are incomplete.
“Because it’s not finished, it’s not as attractive as it could be,” Corso said. “It’s hard to bring people in and sell against sites elsewhere that are shovel-ready.”
Jordan said new jobs in the park could trigger federal grant money that would allow RAB Investments to complete the prep work.
“We didn’t want to do it ourselves because we want to keep lot prices lower,” he said. “That’s important because it allows us to better compete against neighboring counties and other municipalities for new business. The owners of the park are focused on making this work to create jobs for the Sandhills area.”
Jordan added that interest in the park has “increased in the past three or four months.”
“We had a number of people come look before, but it seems to me that the downturn in the economy stopped companies from investing in new facilities,” he said. “Now that we’re seeing more inquiries, we look forward to getting a couple of new clients in there in the near future.”
Work on the park began in November 2006 and the first tenant, Pace Inc., moved in the following June. Pace, an international manufacturer of industrial soldering equipment, hired O’Connor Co. to construct its 37,000-square-foot building.
Because the park is located in an Urban Progress Zone (UPZ), tenants can apply for enhanced Article 3J credits against their North Carolina income taxes. For Moore County, those credits include $1,750 for each new job created and a 7 percent credit for capitalized machinery and equipment.
“We need good jobs because a lot of people are out of work right now,” Jordan said. “It would also be great to boost the tax base for the town and county. But the most important thing is that we want to make sure it’s done properly. The challenge is to narrow the NAICS list without excluding the types of companies that we want.”
Corso agreed, saying, “Let’s get it right. The park is not that far from being great.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at tnatt@thepilot.
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