‘Project Velocity,’ 14 jobs, out of gas?

Local officials’ dwindling hopes for recruiting an automotive business involved with building race cars could be stalled for good.

“To be honest with you, we might lose that one,” Surry County Economic Development Partnership (EDP) President Todd Tucker said this past week of “Project Velocity.”

That is the code name for an effort which surfaced in January involving a plan by an unnamed business in eastern North Carolina to expand to Mount Airy and create 14 jobs.

City and EDP officials were excited not only about the employment prospects, but the diversified nature of the 25-year-old business specializing in auto building, including replica race cars.

The expansion-minded operation was eyeing a former textile building here in order to bring most of its fabrication and assembly tasks under one roof. In addition to building cars, the business designs and fabricates specialty parts for high-end, high-performance auto enthusiasts, thus posing a need locally for designers and various skilled technicians.

However, Project Velocity began to sputter during the spring when an application for a $70,000 state grant filed by Mount Airy was denied. This funding, from the Rural Division Vacant Building Reuse program of the N.C. Department of Commerce, would have aided the automotive business in leasing and reusing a 10,000-square-foot area within the former textile facility with multi-tenant flexible space.

The size of the building also would have allowed the business room to grow, officials have said.

Despite the grant setback, Tucker was hopeful soon after its denial that the Project Velocity business and the building owner would work out an alternate arrangement.

He said in recent days that nothing along those lines has been developed.

The local economic-development official stopped short of saying the project has totally fallen through. “But we’ve definitely lost momentum on that.”

Losing the grant made it harder for the property owner to renovate the former textile building, Tucker said, and still achieve a lease arrangement suitable for both parties.

The average pay for the 14 employees was put at $646 per week, which the EDP has said is well above that of Surry County as a whole.

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

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