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New Road at Industrial Park Drives Business

A recently received state grant has put the Lincoln County Industrial Park on the road – literally – to attracting new industry. Barry Matherly, executive director of Lincoln Economic Development Association, announced Tuesday that the county has received a $233,000 state grant to pay for a new road through the park, located just off U.S. 321. The 1,000-foot road will extend from the Cataler North America plant driveway to 36 acres that front U.S. 321. The future road was the key in almost clinching a deal with an undisclosed company interested in the site. The company has expressed interest in the 10 acres of the site, but wanted the assurance that there would be a road provided, Matherly told LEDA board members. “It’s amazing what a new road will do for you,” Matherly said. Matherly said the grant, given through the N.C. Department of Transportation, was applied for in October. “The DOT has been very supportive of Lincoln County,” Matherly said, noting the addition of a turn lane into the park and the widening of Finger Mill Road. When DOT sees the county producing jobs and creating revenues, they provide help, he said. The new road, in addition to enticing the specific business, will also show other prospective industries how the property is accessed. LEDA is also working with DOT to erect two green road signs on U.S. 321 directing traffic to the park. The signs, which will alert drivers that the park is off the next exit, will be placed one mile before each exit. LEDA also hopes to have other directional signs off the exit. These signs, in addition to the large Industrial Park sign that is visible from U.S. 321, will provide the park with exposure – an invaluable marketing tool. Matherly is optimistic about economic development in 2003. In the last half of 2002, there was a surge in the number of people looking for development sites, Matherly said. In the week before Christmas, LEDA had three visits by prospective companies. Also during the meeting, LEDA members also heard from Dr. Jim Watson, superintendent of Lincoln County Schools. Watson asked LEDA to support the relationship between a school system that turns out a strong workforce and industries that are attracted to the area. “A strong educational program will enhance economic development,” Watson said. Watson spoke about the financial woes facing the school system in the coming budget year, and asked LEDA to “go on the record that economic development and education fit like a hand-in-glove.” Tom Anderson, LEDA boar member and county commissioner, told the board that the county is facing the first year of pay-back on the $36 million school bond. “It is absolutely critical that the people of Lincoln County understand that whey they approved is now in place and must be paid for,” Anderson said. Jim Lail, of Jim Lail & Associates, said he didn’t “feel good about putting that burden on county commissioners.” “I know a huge part of what they do is mandated by federal or state (government),” Laid said. Lail said he wants to support the schools, but not pressure the government. Anderson said he saw no problem with LEDA putting forward a statement that makes the connection between schools and the economy. LEDA officials decided to prepare a letter of support and vote on it during the next board meeting.