Mixed messages sent from town, economic group
Appearing before county commissioners in December, economic development officials said an Indian Trail industrial park was one of their top priorities, one of two major projects being worked on. Partnership for Progress CEO Maurice Ewing, who retires in February, told commissioners his organization was waiting on the Indian Trail town council to make a decision, before moving forward.
“Currently we have presented all of our findings to date and we’re waiting for a response from Indian Trail on whether or not they would like us to go forward,” Ewing told commissioners at their Dec. 5 meeting.
That news surprised town council members, who hadn’t even heard a presentation from Partnership for Progress on the issue.
“I’d say waiting on approval from the Indian Trail town council is a significant stretch of the imagination,” council member Darlene Luther said. “This has never come before the town council. No one is waiting on Indian Trail’s council in this matter.”
Michael Trotter, who takes over for Ewing as interim CEO in February, admits that there haven’t been any presentations to the council, nor are there any plans to present to the board on the project. He agree with Ewing’s comments however, that the group is waiting on the town council before moving forward on anything.
“For a couple of years, we’ve been working on the idea of a business park in Indian Trail,” Trotter said. “We’re still in the planning stages, but we’re at a point we need to be sure that’s what the town wants.”
Trotter pointed to an economic study commissioned last fall by the town council, which was designed to focus the town’s development efforts.
The initial findings identified several areas the town should focus on, including the aviation industry, due to the Charlotte Monroe Executive Airport being located nearby. Also research and development, financial operations, energy, light operation, distribution and the plastics industry were targets outlined. Also a sportsplex themed facility was mentioned as a good project to help build revenue for the town.
Until the final report is released, Trotter said, Partnership for Progress didn’t want to move forward with the project, in case an industrial park isn’t among the economic sectors Indian Trail decides to pursue.
Town manager Joe Fivas was also surprised that Partnership for Progress would mention an industrial park to county commissioners, due to several issues surrounding the parcel mentioned by the group. The industrial park would be placed on a 260 acre lot adjacent to Hwy 74.
“There was a study sponsored by a Duke Energy grant for a heavy industrial park,” Fivas said. “The study presented many unanswered questions on this site and a significant portion of this property is currently entangled in long term litigation.
Fivas also said that Progress officials had not communicated with the town at all before presenting the idea to the county as a major initiative. Fivas said the town council had just started economic development planning, highlighted by the study currently in progress and didn’t anticipate making any quick decisions.
“The town is working on a Strategic Economic Development Plan and we would be well serveed to wait for its release,” Fivas said. “We also want to have a comprehensive economic development discussion with our new mayor and town council, and then form a strategic direction.”
Trotter said his group would wait until the Indian Trail study is released, before determining if they should present to the town council. The economic study is expected to be finished by the end of the month.