North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2016

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19 North Carolina Economic Development Guide T he Haw River gently winds through Alamance County's rolling landscape. Its waters fl ow into the Cape Fear River and then the Atlantic Ocean, but its legacy fl oats an industrious past. Along its banks and tributaries, the fi rst mills were constructed more than 200 years ago. The water turned grist stones, saw blades and looms. A dozen years before the county's 1849 incorporation, its fi rst large-scale factory — Alamance Cotton Mill — was built. By 1853, it was weaving the South's fi rst factory-dyed fabric, Alamance Plaid. It became the state's best- known textile product. Alamance's textile industry blossomed, through war and economic depression, for the next 100 years. Then the mills began to close as manufacturing moved of shore in search of cheaper labor. Today, remnants of the industry knit hosiery and weave assorted fabrics, including those that cover automotive and of ce interiors. The Haw River still fl ows, but it's no longer an industrial attraction. Instead, economic developers are peddling a dif erent resource: collaboration. Communities statewide are collaborating to transform farms and forests into industrial parks. The process can take years. Agreements must be reached, land secured, environmental concerns addressed, utilities supplied and roads built. But in the end, those investments can reap big rewards for companies and communities. In 2012, under the guidance of Burlington-based Alamance County Chamber of Commerce President Mac Williams and his colleagues, State, regional and local governments are pooling resources to develop industrial parks that benefi t companies and communities. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, found what it needed at a park in Alamance County, where it's building a $100 million distribution center and hiring 450 people. Solution: Companies want shovel-ready, certifi ed sites that offer transportation access and utilities, but they're expensive and time consuming to construct. Challenge: Ch al le ng e: Mebane M M Triangle North Franklin is one of four industrial parks built by four adjacent counties near Raleigh. Each has an asset that's complementary within the group. Photo courtesy of Franklin County Economic Development Commission.

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