Siler City board adopts 5-year economic development plan

Posted 5/19/21

SILER CITY — The board of commissioners voted to adopt a 5-year economic development strategy at it regular meeting Monday, enacting a proposal which has been more than a year in the making.

A …

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Siler City board adopts 5-year economic development plan

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SILER CITY — The board of commissioners voted to adopt a 5-year economic development strategy at it regular meeting Monday, enacting a proposal which has been more than a year in the making.

A town-sponsored task force, dubbed the Siler City Economic Development Strategic Five-Year Plan Steering Committee, has worked on the plan since shortly before the pandemic’s start. Its 11 members include such local leaders as Siler City Commissioner Lewis Fadely, Chatham Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) megasite owner Tim Booras, Pastor Cecil Wilson and Siler City Realtor Cindy Dameron. Town Planner Jack Meadows presided over the group’s meetings. After several months in hiatus following 2020’s pandemic lockdown, the committee adjusted its plans and resumed activity last summer via Zoom.

The team has worked under advisement from representatives of the N.C. Main Street & Rural Planning Center — a subset of the N.C. Dept. of Commerce — to develop a community economic recovery and resilience initiative. Especially since Mountaire Farms opened its poultry processing facility in 2019, and with the prospect of several thousand new jobs to come at the CAM site, Siler City stands poised for economic growth and quality-of-life improvements.

MS&RP development planner Bruce Naegelen presented the group’s proposal to the board at its April 19 meeting, but the commissioners elected to defer action until they could more throughly evaluate the 67-page packet. At Monday’s meeting, board members expressed their approval of what the steering committee had compiled.

“I didn’t think anything that was in these requests was inconsistent with anything that we have discussed as a board,” Fadely said. “And I don’t think any of it is inconsistent with the visions that we have talked about before.”

But the proposal adds tangible action items to what have been abstract goals.

“It takes strategies, which are really broad visions,” Naegelen said in the April presentation, “and then narrows each to a specific goal.”

The proposed strategies for Siler City are to foster a lively and multi-cultural downtown; establish safe, connected neighborhoods; cultivate creative business and innovative industry; and promote an inclusive, healthy community. To achieve its new economic positioning and vision statement (see breakout box), the plan includes targeted objectives with projected completion dates staggered over coming years.

If the town adheres to its economic development plan, the Siler City of 2026 should look considerably different than it does now. The strategy prescribes several steps to enhance downtown’s aesthetic, and plans to attract new businesses that will fill critical gaps in the local economy.

From an analysis of Siler City businesses, MS&RP found significant retail homogeneity ­— more than a healthy economy would reflect. Several industries are underrepresented in Siler City, or entirely absent, forcing residents to spend their dollars outside of town and the surrounding retail market. The phenomenon is known as “retail leakage.” The primary industries in which Siler City lacks proportionate supply to meet demand include car and car parts dealers, electronics and appliance stores, sporting goods/hobby/musical instrument stores, clothing stores and general merchandise stores, among others, according to MS&RP.

Just within Siler City’s primary trade area, a five-mile radius from the center of town, the economy forfeits about $23 million in potential resident spending where businesses cannot meet consumer demand. In the 10-mile-radius trade area surrounding downtown, almost $80 million “leaks.”

Incentivizing new commerce and promoting greater cultural inclusion are central tenets of the 5-year plan, which ultimately endeavors to elevate Siler City’s economy to rival the town’s more affluent Chatham neighbor, Pittsboro.

“This was an opportunity to work with an organization in the Department of Commerce that works with towns all over the state,” Meadows said. “They have given us additional tools in our toolbox so that we can steal some of those great ideas that we see in other communities. It’s a written road map for where we need to go.”

A complete version of the 5-year economic development strategy is available on the Town of Siler City’s website, silercity.org.

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

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