North Carolina Railroad named EDC Partner in Progress

June 21, 2016

ASHEBORO — At the 31st annual Randolph County Economic Development Corp. (EDC) meeting Tuesday, EDC recognized the N.C. Railroad (NCRR) as its Partner in Progress.

On accepting the award, NCRR President Scott Saylor announced the railroad is making another purchase of 100 acres in the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite. The railroad will spend $2 million on the purchase.

Bonnie Renfro, EDC president, said N.C. Railroad was selected for its participation in the megasite, purchasing 875 acres of land within the 1,500-plus acre project near Liberty in April for a little over $8 million. With Tuesday’s announcement, NCRR will now control 975 acres of the site with plans to finalize additional purchases this summer.

“For 25 years, the N.C. Railroad has assisted North Carolina’s efforts to recruit a large-scale manufacturer that will result in transformational job creation and economic growth. Their support has been instrumental in moving the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite to a highly marketable site that is competitive in the Southeast U.S. for large advanced manufacturing projects,” Renfro said.

In 2015, Randolph County spent $10 million to buy 425 acres in the megasite, but the remainder of the land is under control of the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite Foundation through options to purchase the land.

The goal of megasite supporters is to attract a significant industry that would create in excess of 1,500 jobs with the potential for more job creation as support industries move in.

From the start, opponents have questioned NCRR’s involvement in the project, suggesting it is beyond the purview of the railroad to be involved in speculative economic development.

In an interview in May, Saylor said economic development is precisely why NCRR was created in 1849. The organization’s mission is “to develop NCRR assets for the good of the people of North Carolina.”

NCRR manages 317 miles of rail that arches from Charlotte, north to Greensboro cutting across the northwest corner of Randolph County, east to Raleigh/Durham and south to Morehead City. It leases the use of the line to Norfolk Southern Railway.

It is money from leases that NCRR is using to invest in the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, Saylor said, not taxpayer dollars. NCRR receives no state appropriations.

When an industry is identified to move into the megasite, NCRR will give that land to the company. The payoff, Saylor said, in addition to jobs, is more rail traffic and more growth for NCRR.

NCRR is invested in economic development across the state, Saylor said in the May interview. For example, NCRR invested $750,000 in a lead track at the N.C. Industrial Center in Alamance County when Cambro, a food service equipment company, decided to build a $30 million facility there in 2014. That lead track is eventually expected to be extended to other manufacturing sites.

NCRR also invests in capital improvements to spur future development, Saylor said. Since 2000, NCRR has invested more than $80 million to improve its line.

Saylor said the railroad is interested in economic development across the state. It has studied the options for support of megasite projects in Edgecomb and Chatham counties, he said.

NCRR was involved from 2007-2011 with the Davidson County Economic Development Corp. in plans to create a megasite in that county. When plans for that site changed in 2014, the railroad approved studies for potential megasites across the state.

That led to interest in megasite development in Randolph County and a commitment to aid in the local economic development project as a way of furthering NCRR’s mission across the state.

Source: Courier-Tribune