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Originally published: 2013-10-14 13:35:21
Last modified: 2013-10-14 13:35:21

EDC works on conceptual biz park plan

The Watauga County Economic Development Commission is beginning to make inroads on a conceptual master plan for a business park on the U.S. 421 corridor.

After a lengthy discussion last week with county commissioners about the county's economic future, the EDC opted to begin creating loose plans for a business park prior to any land purchase.

Commissioners said areas along U.S. 421 would be their preferred location, despite the much higher costs.

County Planner John Spear provided the start of a rough draft to EDC members at their meeting Thursday, based on a real property on U.S. 421.

"What it attempts to do is kind of set a notion of a business park in context using a real, live piece of land, something obviously that is representative of other properties along the Highway 421 corridor," Spear said.

The master plan is an effort to pre-emptively answer some of the questions and concerns that derailed a prospective park in August. It will touch on optional layouts, types of businesses that would be targeted, transportation and access, and aesthetics.

The document suggests larger industrial uses coupled with more moderate-sized industrial or commerce uses, as well as agricultural uses. Some sites might be five to 10 acres, while others might be 2.5 to five acres, the plan suggests.

Spear said his office is working to get low-cost or free software that will allow them to produce attractive site plans and renderings.

The EDC also discussed some of the issues that arose during the review period for the N.C. 194 parcel the county ultimately voted not to purchase.

"We should be ready to hit the ground running should the opportunity come along," EDC Chairwoman Lauren Waterworth said.

The board also received an update from Melissa Boyce of BreakThru! Consulting, who is working on projects on behalf of the EDC, and discussed the 2013 Economic Summit, which is set for Feb. 25, 2014.

EDC members also discussed state changes to programs dealing with rural economic development and received information about an upcoming event at ASU that may feature Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker and others.