© 2024. Randolph Hub. All Rights Reserved.


Growth is coming: Now what?

ASHEBORO — Business, civic and government leaders had their eye on more than the bounty of industrial development occurring in the area at this year’s annual Asheboro / Randolph Chamber of Commerce retreat in Myrtle Beach on Oct. 20-22. 


The rush from announcements by Toyota, Wolfspeed, Boom Supersonic and VinFast has sunk in. Now comes the hard part as local leaders try to lay plans to handle the expected growth that comes with the developments.



Toyota announced in December 2021 that it will build a battery manufacturing facility in the Greensboro Randolph megasite on U.S. 421 just west of Liberty. In August, the company upped the ante with an announcement that it already plans to expand its operations by adding 350 jobs to the anticipated 1,700 needed for the original project.


Boom Supersonic, the high-profile aviation company building modern supersonic airliners for commercial service, will build a manufacturing and final assembly facility in Greensboro, creating more than 1,750 jobs by 2030. The project will bring an investment of more than $500 million through 2030 at a site located at the Piedmont Triad International Airport in Guilford County.


In March, VinFast selected North Carolina for its first North American automotive assembly and battery manufacturing plant. The Hanoi, Vietnam-based auto manufacturer will create 7,500 jobs and invest up to $2 billion in phase 1 of its project at the Triangle Innovation Point megasite in Chatham County. It will be North Carolina’s first car manufacturing plant.


Also in Chatham County, Wolfspeed announced it will produce 200mm silicon carbide wafers. Over the next eight years, the new Wolfspeed facility will create 1,800 new jobs on the 445-acre site just over the Randolph County border.


While three of these major developments will be located outside Randolph County, Linda Brown, Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce president, pointed out that all will be competing for employees, encouraging new populations to move to the area, stressing housing resources and impacting local infrastructure. 




Quality of life

Already local governments in Randleman, Asheboro and Liberty, as well as Randolph County itself, are working on revamping their growth management and planning/zoning regulations. Asheboro had already announced it would host public comment sessions on its next land development plan on Nov. 28, Nov. 29 and Nov. 30. Details about meeting times and places are available at https://asheboronc.gov/government/departments/planning___zoning/land_development_plan_update.php.


Such planning sessions are designed to address questions about quality of life. While the prospect of adding new citizens to the area is positive, leaders say they want growth to come with respect for those already living here.


Asheboro Mayor David Smith pointed out in a chamber presentation that the development of projects like Asheboro’s Zoo City Sportsplex and Jarrell Center City Garden are examples of amenities that make living in the city desirable. So are the proposed improvements to Trade Street in downtown Asheboro that will allow for foot traffic, outdoor dining and a small festival area.


In addition to recreational amenities, cities and county government will also face greater demand for public infrastructure. More people means more calls to 911, more response capacity from police and fire departments, and greater demand on local healthcare services. 


There will also be the concern of how to pay for the added services. As one presenter noted during the retreat, the municipalities won’t be able to collect tax revenue from Toyota or the other projects although some will get water/sewer revenue. Local leaders will need to figure out how to budget for these concerns in the coming years. 



Housing is one of the biggest areas of concern for local governments. Specifically, the area has a definite lack of enough housing to meet current demand, even beyond the demand expected to be created by all of the upcoming job growth. 


Jon Lowder is the president of Triad Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition (TREBIC). In his retreat presentation, Lowder pointed out that market rate apartment vacancy in the Triad was 3.3 percent as of April 2022. He added that demand growth for the last two years (2.6 percent) was greater than supply growth (1.5 percent).


Single family housing is also tight with less than a month’s supply of homes on the market to meet demand, he said. Costs are high as well. Lowder’s charts show that a median family home in Randolph County in the third quarter of 2020 was $180,530. In the third quarter of this year, it was $242,000.


Lowder said construction costs are up and new housing starts are down. Blame for this goes to ongoing supply chain and labor problems that were exacerbated by the pandemic and now lower consumer confidence and economic worries.


Addressing these concerns will require some out-of-the-box thinking on the part of local governments. Brown said in an interview that Asheboro has taken a proactive step to work with Pinnacle Bank to refurbish or demolish roughly 100 properties in the city. This will provide more housing opportunities for first-time buyers, she said.


Smith also said at the retreat that Asheboro has proactively approved new residential development in 2022 that could result in approximately 500 new housing units coming online in the next few years. 



Before residential and commercial growth can begin to match the industrial developments in the area, government officials have to address roads, water and sewer needs.


Water to the industrial sites has been addressed. The City of Greensboro is halfway through the installation of 48,300 linear feet of water line eastward along U.S. 62 from Randleman Lake and 50,200 linear feet of water line along Liberty Road. Both run towards the Toyota battery facility and both are expected to be completed by June 2023. The Liberty Road water line will carry water from Greensboro.


Greensboro is also constructing 49,000 linear feet of sewer lines to the megasite.


Asheboro is involved in a project to extend water east toward Siler City via Ramseur to address water needs for Wolfspeed. The City of Siler City is upgrading its sewer facilities to handle the first phase of construction there, according to information provided by the City of Asheboro at the retreat.


As for water and sewer to support residential growth on the east side of Randolph County and surrounding areas, that is what government officials are tackling now. For the near future, no residential development will be allowed to tie into the water lines being installed by Greensboro, according to Jana Stewart, engineering manager in Greensboro’s water resources department.


The water lines being considered by Asheboro and adjacent cities may accommodate residential tie-ins. In fact, Brown said one idea that has been proposed is to create an Eastern Randolph Water Authority to coordinate with other jurisdictions and partners.


As for roads, Brown said N.C. Department of Transportation has been very much involved with the Toyota megasite project as well as the other developments. The most visible road in all of this development is U.S. 421. However, in a video interview presented at the retreat. Greer (SC) Mayor Rick Danner pointed out that his area, like Randolph, has a lot of rural roads. Greer is at the center of a lot of the development that came when BMW opened and eventually expanded its operations in South Carolina.


Danner said the rural roads in his county are an old-style “farm-to-market” system and not the best in some places. That had to be addressed as the workforce grew. Danner said county and local officials need to be proactive in accessing those needs.


“If you’re going to bring 3,000 people in three shifts or two shifts in and out every day, you’re gonna have to have a way to get them in and out of there,” he said.



All of the industrial development that is under way is expected to generate demand for between 13,000 and 14,000 workers over the next decade. That’s just from the four main drivers of job growth.


In his retreat presentation, Kevin Franklin, Randolph County Economic Development Corporation president, said the multiplier effect of these four companies will likely create over 64,000 additional jobs in support industries in the coming decade.


Many of those workers will need training. Community colleges are expected to step up to address that need. But they will need resources and support to do that.


Additionally, in an interview, Brown said there is growing concern among existing business owners about what she called “worker drift.” This is when employees move from current jobs to take advantage of higher pay or different work opportunities at new companies. Employers will need to reassess their work environment and make sure their employees have a reason to stay put.


Another double-edged sword is the expected rise in average income, Brown said. She called it a generational shift in financial prosperity for county residents. 


While that sounds like good news on the surface, the situation raises unique challenges. What impact will more disposable income have on county businesses like retail and restaurants? As demand for first-time housing goes up, what affect will that have on service providers in the construction and renovation sectors? How will increased prosperity affect the healthcare sector as more people could conceivably be able to afford access to care?


Unanswered questions

The chamber’s annual retreat did not provide all of the answers to these and other questions that will come as the county grows into a new resurgence in manufacturing in Randolph County. Brown said it did give business and government leaders a chance to discuss what is being done now and how to move forward to meet the opportunities of the future.


“There is no doubt, there’s a lot in front of us,” she said. “We have no lack of opportunity. The point now is to get in a position to make policy for the future.”