Grant effort could create 60 jobs

By Tom Joyce - [email protected]

Mount Airy officials are eyeing a pair of grant applications which could lead to 60 new jobs here in buildings formerly used for other purposes.

One involves “Project Sweet Dreams” and the other “Project Signup,” which are code names assigned to local economic-development efforts to keep company identities concealed during early planning stages.

Of the two entities targeted, one is based out of town and the other project relates to a potential expansion by an existing North Carolina business, according to Martin Collins, the city’s community-development director. “I think you could describe them as local,” Collins said of the latter.

“I would characterize one as a manufacturing entity and the other I would describe not as a headquarters, but more as an office complex,” he said.

“If both companies decided to do their projects in Mount Airy, there would be 30 jobs initially and as many as 60 in two years.”

To help make Project Sweet Dreams and Project Signup realities, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners has authorized two potential grant applications for structural renovations through the rural division of a building reuse grant program of the N.C. Department of Commerce.

That program provides funding to convert vacant industrial buildings for new uses.

One grant application eyed is for $100,000 in funding, while a dollar figure is not available at this point for the other. Receiving the grants would require local matching funds of 5 percent for the total awarded.

Past efforts aided

Collins said that from his point of view, the building reuse grants have been a great resource for Mount Airy, which has had its share of vacant industrial buildings due to a rash of plant closings in recent years. And basically what’s left is a roof and four walls, he said.

“They need a lot of work to be able to put work stations there,” Collins said of new occupants.

When renovations can be funded with reuse grants, it frees up the companies involved to invest money in other areas such as equipment and personnel, Collins said.

The city commissioners voted to authorize the two potential grant applications after discussing the economic-development projects during a closed session Thursday night.

Applications being considered would need to be filed by a Jan. 5 deadline in order to qualify for an upcoming cycle of state building reuse grants.

If these are approved, city officials will hold a public hearing to give citizens an opportunity to comment on the acceptance of the grants and devoting local funding for the 5 percent match.

Mount Airy has had mixed results with building reuse grant applications sought from state sources in recent years.

Among the successes were a $359,250 grant awarded to help a local company, Advanced Electronic Services Inc. (AES), expand and create 30 jobs. That project involved using a vacant industrial building on Riverside Drive formerly occupied by L.S. Starrett Co. and later a mattress manufacturer.

Also, a $76,899 grant was awarded to aid the expansion of another existing operation, Burton Signworks Inc., at a former Cross Creek Apparel fabric plant on Riverside Drive.

Most recently, however, a $70,000 grant application by Mount Airy to the Rural Division Vacant Building Reuse program of the state Department of Commerce was denied. It would have supported “Project Velocity,” involving plans by an automotive business in eastern North Carolina which builds race cars to expand to a former textile building in Mount Airy and provide 14 jobs.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

[email protected]

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