Elkin officials initiated the first step in what they hope will be a project leading to economic growth in the town Monday by approving a letter asking for a discussion between town and county officials on the potential of constructing a shell building.
Shell buildings can be built in several ways, with partnerships developing between government entities and contractors, explained Leslie Schlender, economic development director for the town. The building would be just as it sounds, a shell with walls, a floor and a roof, allowing for potential buyers or leasers to finish out the inside as necessary for their needs.
The site proposed is 29 acres on PGW Drive, Schlender told commissioners Monday, as she asked the commissioners to approve a letter which will serve as a formal request for a meeting between the town and county officials to see what is needed to proceed with the potential project.
“The letter just asks can we come to the table,” she said. “If we can formalize a partnership, then we can put out a request to contractors for proposals.”
The request for the meeting was recommended by the town’s economic development committee.
“The county economic development committee is also interested, because we don’t have any facilities to sell,” said Elkin Commissioner J.L. Lowe, who is the board representative on the town’s committee. “Companies now want a shell building, they don’t want land. To get a let up, I think the shell building is the way to do that.”
“Right now the hot thing is people looking for an existing building,” said Todd Tucker, president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, the group which works with potential and existing industries in the county to see how their needs can be met. “We’ve sold and leased all the usable buildings.”
While there are a few buildings still available in the county, Tucker explained many of them are too small, too short, or involve other restrictions due to the age of the facilities which are not conducive to what industries need in this day and age.
He said since his arrival in 2009, 80 percent of the inquiries the SCEDP gets from potential industries are looking for existing buildings, and 57 percent of those are looking for 100,000 square feet or larger. Another desire are ceilings at least 35 feet clear. “We can’t respond, because we don’t have that,” he said.
“The letter creates a partnership where it not just public money. We want to try to put some public land up, so the developers will come in and build,” Tucker explained. “We just want to talk to the county to see if they’re interested.”
When asked by Commissioner Cicely McCulloch about how the arrangements are handled after the building is built and someone is interested, Tucker said there are several ways it can be handled. “It all depends on what the town and county feels comfortable with the developer. Most developers just want to sell it.” He said in a few cases, developers will lease the property.
The board unanimously voted to send the county the letter to initiate the partnership.
According to the letter, the town and SCEDP “have been working together to find partners to help in the development of a shell building for the Elkin Corporate Park for a couple of years. At this point, we have had some slight interest from some local and regional developers, but not enough to make anything concrete happen. We believe that in order for the town of Elkin to be successful, we will need as many partners as possible.”
The letter, signed by Mayor Lestine Hutchens after the board’s authorization given Monday, goes on to explain that the town and SCEDP have worked with a law firm to develop an agreement between the town, the county, SCEDP and a developer for the development of a shell building through a partnership. “As part of the agreement, the town and county will donate a set amount of land for the building to be constructed and borrow up to $1 million from the North Carolina Department of Commerce CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) Shell Building Fund,” she writes.
The letter, addressed to County Manager Chris Knopf, goes on to ask for a meeting with representatives of the town, county and SCEDP about the proposed draft agreement.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.