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Measuring growth: A look at the bond project impact so far
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Measuring growth: A look at the bond project impact so far

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The building at 703 Main Avenue SW has stood vacant for at least four years. That will not be the case for much longer.

Atriax Group, an engineering, consulting and construction services firm that currently has offices on Third Avenue NE, is moving into the roughly 11,400-square-foot building that once housed a motorcycle shop.

Bob Sinclair, the director of operations for Atriax, said there were concerns initially about the condition of the building but the property grew on the Atriax team once it was cleaned up.

Sinclair said the presence of the City Walk just across the railroad track was a significant factor in the company’s choice of that site.

He said the bond program showed the community was forward-looking and that it was an important component for drawing young workers to the area.

“Hickory is not always the first destination for young professionals, and we’ve found that over the last year or so that the number of young professionals that are knocking on our door has increased, that we are seeing more people interested in our little town and the amenities that it offers,” Sinclair said.

When Hickory voters went to the polls in 2014 to approve $40 million in city bonds, they did so with the promise of revitalization and growth.

At a recent Hickory City Council meeting, Assistant to the City Manager Yaidee Fox said the city was delivering that growth.

She said the city has already secured $371 million in investment and commitments for 397 housing units.

In addition, the work had created more than 4,400 jobs, more than 1,300 of which Fox described as permanent positions.

A few years ago, the city identified the following economic development goals for the bond program: $500 million in investment, 8,000 additional jobs, 1,750 new housing units and 3,500 more people in the city.

The city wants to achieve or exceed those goals by 2035.

The development touted so far has occurred even as the projects themselves are not yet complete.

The City Walk and Riverwalk are under construction and three other distinct walking and biking paths are in various phases of planning and development.

The bond-funded Trivium Corporate Center business park between Startown and Robinwood roads has already attracted four companies.

Taking stock of growthWhen asked to break down $371 million in investment linked to the bond program, the city provided a list of 15 different projects, including Atriax.

The projects listed run the gamut from the Dollar General discount store being built on 10th Street Boulevard NW to the high-dollar expansion of grocery supplier MDI.

Nearly all the projects are located within a mile of one of the planned walking and biking paths or the Trivium Corporate Center.

In addition, at least 11 of the projects received some form of incentives or development assistance from the city, local county governments or both.

Four of the projects — Corning, ITM, Cataler and American Fuji Seal — are manufacturing or distribution businesses locating in the Trivium business park.

The development calculation includes two speculative buildings — Stonemont in Trivium and Lake Park located near U.S. 321.

Second Street Inn, a vacation rental property planned on Second Street SE, and a project to upgrade the Emporium building on Second Street NW, are also included that total.

Four of the developments are residential or some mix of commercial and residential.

Hickory Communications Specialist Sarah Killian said the 397 units at these four developments are split into 267 market-rate units and 130 affordable apartments.

Affordable units are defined as those that are federally funded and are reserved for people with incomes that are 80 percent or less of the area median income, Killian said.

Two examples of the different types of housing developments are on display just across the railroad tracks from each other near downtown.

There’s the looming One North Center development just north of the tracks, which will provide 95 market-rate apartments. Just south of the tracks is Center Crossing, which will offer 50 affordable units.

Preston Ridge near Trivium and The Lodge in southwest Hickory round out the four housing developments.

By far the most expensive development identified by the city is the $120 million expansion planned by MDI.

Kimberly George, the president of communications and corporate citizenship for MDI, said the city’s bond program with its quality-of-life improvements was one factor in the company’s decision to grow in Hickory.

“What the city is doing to improve the living and the attractiveness of the area definitely makes a difference in choosing this as a location for expansion versus another area,” George said.

Killian said the trail system “will extend across the lake and up to MDI” as part of a future project.

When it comes to calculating job totals, the city uses an economic modeling software called IMPLAN, Killian said.

She said the software uses data from government agencies to project employment based on given levels of investment.

“For the permanent jobs, the software takes into account the number of jobs created in each industry and the estimated salary of those jobs to calculate the additional indirect and induced jobs that are also spurred by a development,” Killian said. “The city uses the estimated salaries and number of jobs contained in job announcements for these models.”

She said the economic impact of the bond program goes beyond just the direct development occurring in the areas where the projects themselves are located.

“The investments of the bond program have ripple effects throughout the entire Hickory region,” Killian said. “These efforts not only directly create economic development opportunities; they also enhance quality of life and make our community an attractive place for prospective job hunters, residents and visitors.”

Kevin Griffin is the City of Hickory reporter at the Hickory Daily Record.

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