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Officials Cite Improving Economy

In a time of economic uncertainty, plant closings and job layoffs, Lincoln County seems to be bucking the trend. During the Lincoln Economic Development Association’s annual membership meeting Thursday, officials were optimistic about Lincoln’s economic future. Job losses have been kept to a minimum and prospective industry visits have been picking up, said Barry Matherly, LEDA executive director. “Every month it has gotten better and better and better,” Matherly said. Matherly cited figures that showed in the last two years, Gaston County has lost 7,000 jobs. Lincoln County, on the other hand, has lost only 700. “We’ve been able to hold the losses to a minimum, and we’ve been able to succeed in bringing them in,” Matherly said. The number of industries visiting Lincoln County is also up, Matherly said. During the end of December and the beginning of January, LEDA saw a jump in the number of people coming to visit. In the week before Christmas, there were three visits. “A lot more companies are actively pursuing,” Matherly said. The typical time frame from a company’s initial expression of interest to a decision being made is anywhere from six months to one or two years, he said. That means things should start happening this summer due to the interest in last 2002, Matherly said. “Hopefully others will go forward and the other ones we’ve been working with will also fall in line,” he said. Expansion announcements are nothing new for Lincoln County – McMurray Fabrics, Timken and RSI all made such announcements in the last year. And LeeBoy’s Rosco division relocated to Lincoln from across the country. The year was better than officials expected, Matherly said. While it was still an “off year,” compared to previous years and other counties, Lincoln has done well. And it looks like it will continue. RSI is considering another expansion that would mean a $7.5 million investment and at least 30 jobs. Matherly also told LEDA members that an international company has put a long term option on a shell building at Indian Creek Industrial Park. An announcement is expected to be made in November. Another existing industry is also interested in the same site, he said. LEDA’s Industrial Properties Committee has selected a site in eastern Lincoln County for a future industrial park, Matherly said. He didn’t elaborate further on the location or any details. “I can tell you it’s in east Lincoln,” Matherly said. In other business: Laura Foor, existing business coordinator, said LEDA members have visited 50 companies again this year, which was the association’s goal. The visits help foster a strong relationship between LEDA and the companies. “We want industries to think of us as their number 1 resource. . .for help and celebration, as well,” Foor said. Matherly presented LEDA’s newly developed Pocket Promoters, small brochures that highlight different aspects of Lincoln County. The brochures are made to be distributed to people outside that state to garner interest in Lincoln. Rhonda Hunter, office manager, reported that LEDA now has 87 private members. That’s an 89 percent increase over last year. Some of LEDA’s goals in the coming years include visiting newly identified motorsports businesses, promoting local international businesses and fostering stronger relationships with state, regional and local entities that assist in economic development. LEDA also plans to develop a decal that can be placed on the backs of trucks that travel cross country, compile a directory of transportation-related companies and work with restaurants in the county.