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Ch. 7: Resilient, Diverse Economy

Salisbury will be a community that fosters opportunities for economic growth and prosperity for all by attracting, cultivating, and retaining a strong diverse workforce. Salisbury will leverage local assets and partnerships to promote business vitality and diversity for a resilient local economy.

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Forward 2040 Chapter 7: Resilient, Diverse Economy

Tenants of a healthy and diverse local economy include, strong local businesses, a vibrant workforce, adaptability, and affordable housing. While workforce and affordable housing are covered in the Thriving, Livable Neighborhoods chapter, this chapter will focus on creating partnerships with regional economic development agencies, ensuring regulatory flexibility for unique businesses, supporting new and established business, and seeking ways to support the workforce.  Economic development is not solely focused on business development. Culture, recreational opportunities, community appearance, and other factors related to quality of life are integral to economic development. These factors help to attract and retain residents thereby growing the employment base of a City.

Goal 7.1. Maximize Salisbury’s strategic location and the urban and rural mix

Located on Interstate-85 at the midpoint between two larger metropolitan areas, Charlotte/Mecklenburg County and the Triad Region, Salisbury is well positioned to be the best of both a rural and urban community. Furthermore, access to transportation networks - Interstate-85 and the Norfolk-Southern Main Line/East Coast High Speed Rail Corridor – give Salisbury an economic advantage in a variety of industries. In 2022 Salisbury’s population was just over 35,000, but boasted the highest population within a 60-minute drive of any other city in North Carolina. Taking advantage of the City’s location and transportation access will be crucial for a variety of industries – from manufacturing and distribution to tourism and the arts.   

Policy 7.1.1.

Support the development of regional transportation options – especially commuter rail and the expansion of the high speed rail corridor.

Policy 7.1.2.

Create partnerships with the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority and other partners to position Salisbury as a regional destination for conferences, major sporting events, performing arts, and other special events. Provide programs and services to support and expand the city’s hospitality and tourism industry. 

Policy 7.1.3. 

Identify existing assets and develop plans around leveraging those for tourism, quality of life, and economic development.
Economy Action 1: 
Explore funding to plan and build a regional greenway connection with the Town of Spencer as a tourism and economic development attraction.

Policy 7.1.4. 

Create attractive and functional sites for new and growing businesses through streetscape improvements and other public realm improvements.

Goal 7.2. Support a diverse and thriving business community across business sectors, including small businesses and co-working ventures

Continuing to expand and develop a strong base of businesses that provide good jobs for residents is crucial for long term economic vitality and resiliency. While Salisbury continues to have large and stable employers, the closure of the mills in the early 2000s caused thousands of people to lose their jobs and revealed an instability in the employment sector. Large scale employers are returning to Rowan County in the form of warehousing and distribution facilities. Even while those business sectors grow, it is also important to recognize the importance of nurturing small businesses, start-ups and new sectors.   

Policy 7.2.1.

Avoid abandoning existing commercial corridors and retail centers to create new ones at edge locations. Instead, support the redevelopment and introduction of complete streets, pedestrian activities, and upper-story residences to these areas. 
Economy Action 2:
Develop South Main Street Corridor Small Area Plan

Policy 7.2.2.

Resolve land use constraints within Salisbury’s largest employment sectors, including health care services, manufacturing, and retail trade, to allow for growth and expansions of jobs that provide a stable economic base. 

Policy 7.2.3.

Encourage diverse retail, office, residential, and service uses in new commercial developments. 

Policy 7.2.4.

Maximize the efforts of Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) working to improve local business areas by providing support and capital to underserved areas.

Policy 7.2.5.

Support infill development of retail, office, and mixed-use land use.

Policy 7.2.6.

Support the creation of maker-spaces and links to small business resources for local artists, craftspeople, and entrepreneurs.

Policy 7.2.7.

Encourage co-working spaces and ensure these uses through zoning.

Goal 7.3. Attract, develop, and retain a strong and dynamic workforce

The heartbeat of the economy is the workforce, and even prior to the “Great Resignation” of 2021, many small businesses and top employers have struggled to fill job vacancies with those who possess the knowledge and skills to perform the job. Strengthening economic competitiveness will require an investment in human capital. To thrive in the future, the City may need to assume a more active role in leveraging existing institutions to provide training and opportunities for residents, and recognizing our role in “placemaking” as a way to recruit and retain talent. 

Policy 7.3.1.

Support local economic development organizations, such as Centralina NC Works Career Centers, Workforce Development, Department of Labor, RCCC Small Business Center, the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce, and the State of North Carolina, for recruitment and retention in the area.

Policy 7.3.2.

Explore partnerships with educational institutions and colleges in order to support Salisbury’s educated and creative workforces to foster economic stability. Encourage partnerships with local employers, schools, and nonprofit organizations that provide training in soft skills, vocational skills, and other services. 

Policy 7.3.3.

Collaborate with and support organizations that provide job opportunities for Salisbury’s youth. 

Policy 7.3.4.

In conjunction with the Rowan-Salisbury School System, ensure the provision of job training, retraining, and related programs that equip residents in need and the workforce with the basic skills, literacy, and job-specific training that is necessary to gain employment.

Policy 7.3.5.

Seek economic development incentives aimed at attracting new businesses that focus on investments in human capital, such as job training and recruitment.

Policy 7.3.6.

Assist the Chamber of Commerce and other private-sector organizations in creating programs to retain local college students in the area by providing connections to internship programs and post-graduation employment. 

Goal 7.4. Demonstrate resilience by preparing for and adapting to change

Change is inevitable in a local economy, and Salisbury must be ready to adapt to whatever comes – from global pandemics, to changes in the climate, and advancements in technology.  

Policy 7.4.1.

Support jobs in technology-intensive industries, as well as technology infrastructure, public utilities, and capital improvements that foster growth of these industries. 

Policy 7.4.2.

Provide space and infrastructure needed to support budding niche industries to support growth in these areas.

Policy 7.4.3.

Encourage the preparation and implementation of short and long-term strategic plans for economic development organizations to maximize sustainable economic growth.

Policy 7.4.4.

Ensure flexibility in regulations and processes in emergency situations.

Goal 7.5. Support and provide business innovation, expansion, and technology access

Recruitment of industries is just one aspect of economic development. Creating an environment in which companies want to grow, expand, and adapt locally is equally important. Salisbury has assets – land, transportation access, educational pipeline, and a high speed fiber network – that should continually be leveraged to promote business growth. 

Policy 7.5.1.

Foster attractive environments for new retail development and employment centers in underserved areas with the use of capital investments and incentives.
Economy Action 3:
Conduct a Retail Market Assessment to identify business clusters and gaps as a baseline for recruiting retail businesses.

Policy 7.5.2.

Use tools such as land assemblage incentives, site preparations, and public infrastructure improvements to promote investment opportunities for new employment in areas prime for reinvestment and revitalization.

Policy 7.5.3.

Leverage the existing high speed fiber network as an incentive for business location and expansion. 

Policy 7.5.4.

Create a flexible development environment to support the formation of new business and growth in the city’s older commercial areas.

Goal 7.6. Promote large and small scale business clusters

Business clusters are concentrations of related business. A small scale example may be a collection of businesses that have services related to the wedding industry, i.e., florists, bakeries, hairstylists, and tuxedo shops. At an industrial scale, it may include suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Creating an environment that allows businesses to cluster can promote productivity and competitiveness.  

Policy 7.6.1.

Support improvements to existing office clusters with retrofits such as pedestrian friendly residential and retail uses that limit dependence on auto travel and create attractive live-work destinations.

Policy 7.6.2.

Work with local economic development partners to support growth in specific industry sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, agricultural industries, technology, healthcare, and logistics and distribution.

Policy 7.6.3.

Encourage emerging retail districts to identify and capitalize on specific characteristics and niches that make them distinctive and desirable. 
Economy Action 4:
Proactively advise developers and property owners on options for seeking and obtaining brownfield grant funding as a means to investigate and remediate contaminated development sites.

Goal 7.7. Value and strive for equitable economic prosperity

Even as Salisbury grows and becomes a more desirable place to live, thousands of households are living in poverty. Creating a pathway for upward economic mobility will be critical for the success of the community as a whole. 

Policy 7.7.1.

Celebrate the growing diversity of cultures by recognizing and supporting associated business opportunities.

Policy 7.7.2.

Create a larger market base in neighborhoods of low social and economic indicators in order to provide more and better goods and services to new and existing residents in these areas.

Policy 7.7.3.

Create opportunities for small, minority, and women owned businesses by providing training, technical assistance, and incentives to contribute to a diverse and sustainable local economy. 

Policy 7.7.4.

Provide technical and financial assistance to neighborhood businesses and merchant associations to increase neighborhood reinvestment.

Goal 7.8. Expand and maintain areas for production, processing, and distribution

As Salisbury grows, it is important to ensure areas for new industrial development opportunities and to protect existing industrial areas. Most new industrial development will likely be located near the Interstate-85 corridor. New industrial areas should be buffered from incompatible land uses, such as residential areas. 

Policy 7.8.1.

Accommodate industrial uses – including municipal operations facilities – in areas that are well buffered from residential uses and other sensitive uses such as schools, and that are easily accessed from major roads or railroads.

Policy 7.8.2.

Continue to support the creation of infill business and industrial parks

Policy 7.8.3.

Protect industrial opportunity areas from other types of development that make it difficult to assemble land.

Policy 7.8.4.

Support improvement of infrastructure, such as transportation and utilities, that meets the needs of new and existing manufacturers and distributors. 

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