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As more acreage acquired for megasite, Golden LEAF commits money to site prep

April 15 2016

Triad Business Journal

The N.C. Railroad Cop. on Wednesday completed its purchase of 630 acres within the footprint of the Greensboro Randolph Megasite, with now more than 1,200 acres controlled by the partners in the site near Liberty.

The N.C. Railroad earlier this year announced it would spend $13 million to buy 875 acres within the megasite, and last week sent a letter to the Randolph County Commission saying it was preparing to close on the first portion of that land purchase.

The N.C. Railroad, Randolph County and the nonprofit Greensboro Randolph Megasite Foundation are partners on the megasite that sits near Liberty.

"I think to have over 1,200 acres is a pretty powerful signal that this site is moving forward," said Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan. "It seems like all the pieces are falling into place."

The purchase follows an announcement by the Golden LEAF Foundation that it has set aside $25 million to support the infrastructure needed to make sites, such as a megasite, more competitive in landing large-scale industrial projects.

Called the Major Site Development Initiative, the effort is supplemented by $10 million from the state's Rural Infrastructure Authority and is expected to assist multiple sites around the state with preparations needed to secure a large manufacturer.

The $25 million falls under the overall $50 million commitment that the Golden LEAF Foundation announced in February 2015 would be used to help attract an auto manufacturer to the state.

The Rocky Mount-based Golden LEAF Foundation is nonprofit funded by national tobacco settlement money that focuses on economic development support around the state.

Gerlach said the expectation is that the $25 million will be extended to site preparations within the next three years, and is somewhat unique in that Golden LEAF is using the funding to enhance sites even before a company is committed to building there.

"With companies looking at various sites and comparing them to those in other states, you need to reduce the time to get that site ready," Gerlach said.

To be competitive for grants from the initiative, sites must have at least 150 contiguous acres. They also need to have seen recent interest from the private sector, and there must be a strategy for marketing the site.

Gerlach said the potential job creation at a site will factor into awards, meaning that larger sites capable of attracting more significant manufacturing operations, such as a megasite, would have a better shot at securing funding.

However, Gerlach emphasized that the intent is not to commit the pool of funding to a single site.

"There are not going to be 100 grants, but there's not going to be one grant, either," Gerlach said.

Along with financial support from the Golden LEAF Foundation and the Rural Infrastructure Authority, the initiative has Duke Energy as a partner, with the utility providing support in analyzing the readiness of sites to see if they qualify for funding.

“Today’s economic development projects demand low schedule and site risk,” said John Geib, director of economic development for Duke Energy. “Duke Energy is delighted to support this collaborative effort to increase the level of preparedness and confidence of industrial clients in sites across North Carolina.”

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