It may have escaped notice from most folks, but a profound development for Moore County’s future economy occurred last week.

The Iron Horse Industrial Park, which has long been little more than 128 acres of woods off N.C. 211 in Aberdeen, is finally set to receive its first bit of activity. The town of Aberdeen was awarded a grant of $167,670 to clear 40 acres in the park and make it “pad-ready” for a future industrial investment.

That may seem small in this age where North Carolina is luring billion-dollar plants for electric vehicle battery production and setting itself up to recruit computer chip manufacturing worth tens of billions. But none of that is destined for Moore County. Instead, our future lies in offering opportunities to smaller companies and operations that are making meaningful contributions to the 21st century economy.

 
The grant, awarded by the N.C. Railroad Co., a private corporation that manages a 217-mile rail corridor from Charlotte to Morehead City, gives Moore County something important it does not currently have: a site ready for a company to build upon.
 

“The park’s current condition, without a cleared site, any curb appeal, or an access road, makes it difficult for a prospective client to picture themselves and their facility located in the park,” said Natalie Hawkins, executive director of Partners in Progress, the nonprofit public/private economic development corporation serving Moore County.

Every journey begins with a first step, and this is ours.

The Iron Horse Industrial Park lies just above the Hoke County line. A little more than half the site is owned by the nonprofit Three Rivers Land Trust, while the remaining 52 acres is owned by the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad. It has virtually every amenity an industrial park needs: water, sewer, natural gas and rail access. The Aberdeen and Rockfish connects to both CSX and Norfolk Southern rail lines, and the property is within 3 miles of the four-lane U.S. 1. And while N.C. 211 is currently two lanes, state road officials will be upgrading the highway to four lanes in the next several years.

For all its amenities, though, prospective tenants simply couldn’t see past the trees.

“Companies today have very accelerated timelines for selecting a site, constructing a facility, and starting operations,” Hawkins said. “They want a site that is ready to go.

“Having 40 acres of land cleared will make our industrial park more competitive and will remove the single largest barrier to marketing the site.”

A clear, buildable site will give Moore County a profoundly stronger portfolio for the next industrial client who comes calling.

 

(Editorial, The Pilot 3/12/22)