RANDOLPH COUNTY -- Economic development proponents say the stars are aligning that would bring an automaker to North Carolina. The Golden Leaf Foundation has committed $50 million to sweeten the deal for an automobile manufacturing facility here.
As U.S. auto sales continue their post-recession surge, economic development leaders say now's the time for North Carolina to push for an auto assembly plant to help meet production demand.
"We do not want to stand idly by and miss opportunities that may not happen for another two decades," said Dan Gerlach, Golden Leaf Foundation president.
Several megasites across the state could be good candidates for a plant including a 1,330 acre site in Randolph County, the Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site and the Kingsboro MegaPark in Rocky Mount. Golden Leaf's $50 million pledge is not site specific.
"If an auto manufacturer said we want to locate at site A, B or C in the state of North Carolina, site A, B or C would be where we invest this money," said Gerlach.
Randolph County commissioners recently approved spending $4.2 million to help assemble that county's megasite near U.S. 421. The region is now well-positioned to attract a company.
"We have some product, if you would, to talk with and present to prospective automobile manufacturers that we have not had, certainly in this part of North Carolina, in quite some time," said Stan Kelly, chief executive officer for Piedmont Triad Partnership.
Kelly said efforts to interest automakers are ongoing.
"There have been a series of conversations for some time, and so we've gotten preliminary feedback as has the state of North Carolina,” he said. “So we know generally what an automobile manufacturer is seeking."
Kelly was confident an auto plant would be in the state's future.
"North Carolina has had an automobile manufacturer vision in its sights for some time,” he said. “I believe that North Carolina will win the day over the next several years."