Manufacturing continues to be one of North Carolina’s top business sectors. While many companies are attracted to the state’s urban areas, the Golden LEAF Foundation works to help the recruitment of manufacturers to rural and economically distressed areas by providing the economic tools businesses need to grow.
Without adequate infrastructure in place, major industries will often look elsewhere when making expansion decisions.
In Shelby, NC, major Golden LEAF grants helped bring new jobs to the region by supporting infrastructure improvements at the Washburn Switch Business Park.
Clearwater Paper, the largest provider of private-brand tissue to the U.S. retail market, opened a plant in Shelby, NC, in 2010, creating 300 jobs. In 2017, the company announced the expansion of its operations with 175 additional manufacturing jobs. Golden LEAF supported these two phases of growth through a grant in 2010 and two grants for water and sewer in December 2016.
“The City was awarded a $3 million Major Site Development Initiative grant and a $1.5 million Economic Catalyst grant to be applied toward a $20 million water and sewer improvement project necessary to meet Clearwater’s needs,” said Rick Howell, Shelby City Manager. “Quite simply, without this assistance from Golden LEAF, this project could not happen.”
Golden LEAF worked with several partners to fund the improvement project and support the expansion efforts. Large economic development projects often require an all-hands-on-deck approach. The combined funding will not only support Clearwater’s expansion, but open the rest of the Washburn Switch Park for development and improve other aspects of local water and sewer infrastructure.
“We received funding from Golden LEAF, NC Commerce, US EDA, Clearwater Paper and Cleveland County in addition to the City of Shelby,” said Howell. “This significant industrial development could not happen without all of us pulling together.”
Howell said the project is a shot-in-the-arm for not only Shelby and Cleveland County, but also for the surrounding rural communities in Rutherford and Lincoln counties.
“Our clients continue to emphasize speed to market, so having infrastructure in place is essential,” said Howell. “This is also true as it relates to having pre-graded certified sites that are ready to go at the time the client visits.”
Because of industry demand for ready sites, the Golden LEAF Foundation, the NC Rural Infrastructure Authority and Duke Energy joined together in 2016 to support a strategic statewide Major Site Development Initiative. Through the initiative, the Golden LEAF Foundation awarded $25 million to five large industrial sites across the state providing public infrastructure to help win projects over competitive states. The expansion of Clearwater Paper is one of the best examples of the results of this collaborative effort.