By Jesse Wood
In a joint meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the Watauga County Economic Development Commission and the Watauga County Board of Commissioners will talk economic matters and continue discussions regarding another industrial park in the county.
The meeting starts at 1 p.m. and takes place in the Watauga County Administration Building on King Street.
After looking at failed proposals for an industrial park at the 74-acre old Watauga High School site and a 200-acre tract along N.C. 194 in the past few years, the EDC and commissioners will turn its attention once again to U.S. 421 in the eastern portion of the county.
In the packet for this afternoon’s meeting is the EDC’s “Four Twenty One South” conceptual master plan that was initiated in the winter of 2011, according to the plan. Officials first looked at this plan in January 2014 – months after the N.C. 194 deal went south.
While in the past the site at N.C. 194 was preferred over U.S. 421 because of the cheaper acreage, the plan notes several benefits of an industrial park along U.S. 421.
“For a number of reasons, U.S. 421 is widely regarded as the preferred location for a regional employment center,” the plan states. “Highway 421 is a major thoroughfare that is identified in long-range plans as an ‘economic gateway’ corridor, where the county would especially encourage economic development activity. This corridor has many areas that are suited for increased levels of development because essential services and infrastructure can be provided here most efficiently.”
However, the plan noted that finding the ideal site – with enough acreage, necessary infrastructure, ready access, a population density with adequate laborers and without burdensome regulation and zoning – has proven difficult.
Prior to the meeting, EDC Director Joe Furman noted that the plan isn’t “designed for a specific piece of land.”
See the entire plan and meeting packet, which also includes other information related to economic development, here.