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Is Denver the Next Race City?

Is Lake Norman’s automobile racing boom trickling into eastern Lincoln County? That’s what the Lincoln Economic Development Association wants to know. Included as part of the 2002-2003 action plan are strategies to support existing industry. By June 2003, LEDA hopes to develop an auto racing directory, pinpointing racing-related businesses in the county. “A lot of people tell us there are race-related companies in Lincoln,” said Barry Matherly, LEDA executive director. “Every other week you hear about a company that does something related to racing.” However, Matherly said, the extent of the presence is unknown. There are no official statistics as far as how many businesses exist, or if they are a big or small part of the Lincoln economy. If it is proven that the racing industry is becoming a predominate industry in Lincoln County, more of an effort will be made to support, retain and expand related businesses. Areas around Lake Norman are very much affected by racing. Mooresville, known as Race City USA, feels the impact of the racing industry every day. “It’s the largest industry we have,” said Dan Wallace, executive director of the Mooresville-South Iredell Chamber of Commerce. More than 2,000 people are employed by various motorsport businesses, Wallace said, which take up more than 1.5 million-square-feel of the area. Racing has a significant impact on payroll dollars and the tax base, Wallace said. It also brings in quite a bit in tourist money. “All of a sudden we’re on the map as a tourist destination,” Wallace said. “It’s a good thing.” Huntersville, while not experiencing year-round effects, does see an increase in tourism during the race months of May and October, Town Clerk Janet Pierson said. Bill Russell, president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, said racing has a profound effect in North Mecklenburg and Lake Norman. The racing industry brings in $750 million each year, and the race track brings in $276 million alone. The average race shop can employ as many as 40 people and produce $8 to 12 million for the economy. The first step for Lincoln County is to identify all race-related businesses, including companies that have teams, paint cars or work on engines. Once this inventory is completed, LEDA would have an idea how many companies exist and how much of an impact they have on the county. “Then we’ll decide if we want to promote (racing),” Matherly said. Research for the directory should begin in the fall, with completion scheduled for April 2003.