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Supporters to begin marketing Greensboro-Randolph Megasite ‘to the world’

April 07 2016

Triad Business Journal

More pieces are falling into place for the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite near Liberty, as planning begins for how to extend power to the area and engineering work gets underway for a new interchange to serve the site.

But Jim Melvin, who heads both the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation and the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite Foundation, told me Thursday that a letter read this week at the Randolph County commissioners meeting is the bigger piece of news.

The Greensboro-Randolph Megasite is anticipating site certification in late April or early May.

The letter, penned by N.C. Railroad Co. President Scott Saylor to the county commission, explains that the railroad has set aside $13 million to complete the purchase of 875 acres within the 1,550-acre megasite footprint, and will close on a majority of that acreage within two weeks. The remainder will be purchased "within the few months that follow," the letter says.

That should quell any talk by opponents of the site that the N.C. Railroad, which announced plans to buy the chunk of land from the megasite foundation in January, didn't have the dollars to follow through on the deal, Melvin said.

That's key as the site moves toward being certified by the state and by KPMG either late this month or in early May, and has an agreement recently inked between the foundation, Randolph County (which has a deed for $10 million of acreage in the site) and the railroad to work hand-in-hand to promote the site, Melvin said.

"We have not tried to market the site until we thought we're ready," Melvin said. "Now we're going to start marketing the site to the world."

These other pieces that are falling into the place — the power and interchange work — help make the site capable of being ready for use within 18 months, once the right large-scale manufacturer is found, he said.

The foundation is paying for Duke Energy to study how to bring power to the site and which route to use, a process the power company won't fund itself without a client ready to use the site, Melvin said.

Likewise, interchange planning — which is typically funded by the state when an end user is already in place — can move ahead because the foundation paying for the work, he said.

"The DOT cannot spend any public money for speculative purposes," Melvin said.

He said the goal is "to have the site ready so that everything that is needed for it can be delivered within 18 months. We're not going to build an interchange until we have a customer."

So does that mean that companies are now shopping around for megasites? Does Melvin know of an automaker who is now ready to kick the tires of a potential home for a new U.S. auto plant?

If Melvin knows of one, he's not saying. But as supporters have always argued, the site needs to be ready to go when one does come knocking, hence the flurry of activity.

"We're confident that it's such a good site that we will eventually get a customer," Melvin said.

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