Conover shares success stories

Conover turned an old, undesirable plot of contaminated land into new economic development. City leaders say many state resources made the transformation at Conover Station possible.

Now the city is sharing the pathway to that development success with other towns across the state, and leaders hope to collect a few ideas for Conover at the same time.

Conover Mayor Lee Moritz and Mayor Pro Tem Kyle Hayman attended the N.C. Governor’s Forum on Small Town Competitiveness this week at Davidson County Community College in Thomasville. Moritz said leaders from North Carolina towns with populations less than 50,000 were invited to attend one of three forums across the state.

“Some told successes in their area,” Hayman said. “Others reached out looking for help. One of the things I found was that a lot of municipalities aren’t aware of resources in our state, through the Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture and other agencies that might have a way to assist in some area.”

Hayman said Gov. Bev Perdue spoke 5-10 minutes at the forum and then stepped back to listen to city leaders. Hayman said he was compelled to share the story of the Conover Station development.

“We started out with a 26-acre plot of land that to most people is not desirable, doesn’t lay very well, had dilapidated buildings on it and had problems with contamination,” he said. “Working with agencies like the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, they helped us clean up the site. We got funding for Conover Station through working with many agencies. Hopefully, through our story, other communities rich in manufacturing history with vacant buildings like we have can learn something.”

Hayman said free networking events like the governor’s forum are useful to all cities involved.

“If Hickory has something successful, it’s going to help Conover and it’s going to help Newton,” he said. “It’s all about regionalism. How can we help each other? How can we put people back to work?”

Hayman said job creation was a theme of conversation at the forum.

“The focus does seem to be on jobs,” Moritz said. “The governor pointed out that we have made progress on jobs, but we’re not satisfied with what we’re doing.”

Moritz said Conover has been working with Manufacturing Solutions Center – formerly the Hosiery Technology Center at Catawba Valley Community College – to create 102 jobs in an entrepreneur manufacturing facility beside Conover Station. He said the effort will be funded entirely by the N.C. Department of Commerce, the Golden LEAF Foundation and other agencies. No money will come from local taxes, he said, and the project aims to help entrepreneurs get started and then keep their business ventures local.

“All the money to make it happen will be generated through grant funding,” Moritz said. “It’s money well-spent. One of our goals with our city council is to develop strong personal relationships with state and federal agencies, so they know Conover appreciates what they’ve done and make sure they know we’ll spend their dollars wisely.”

Hayman said Conover also wants the state to know it needs continued agency support through money and other resources.