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At the Oct. 8 meeting of the Roxboro Kiwanis Club at La Piazza restaurant in uptown Roxboro, Christy Bondy with Person County Public Library was presented with a contribution from the club. She said this would be used for children’s programs promoting literacy, and she mentioned five such programs held this summer.
Club member and county commissioner Gordon Powell introduced Mike Solomon and mentioned the $1.6 million grant recently received to extend water to the Person County mega-site. Solomon is with the Timmons Group and has been a part of the mega site project from its inception. He is involved with other such sites around the state as well and is a licensed engineer in N.C. and several other states. He resides in Greensboro and is involved in community activities there.
Timmons Group is a site development firm based in Richmond, Virginia. Solomon began his presentation with a rendering of a possible semi-conductor chip manufacturing facility which might be an appropriate use of the Person County site. It must be a minimum of 1,000 acres, with 800 developable acres. There must be highway access and a nearby commercial airport. There must be no environmental or archeological concerns. Water and sewer capacity is important, as is access to power and fiber optic cable. The local presence of Duke Power is vital to the Person County site.
Solomon noted that endangered wildlife species are also a factor. Zoning and topography are important, as is the area weather. There are only seven mega sites in North Carolina, including Person County. There are also two in Chatham County, one in Edgecombe, one in Guilford and two in Brunswick, as well as one at the Piedmont Triad Airport. He described the Person County site as being north of the golf course, containing 1,350 acres and bordered by Edwin Robertson Road. This road would require upgrading to its intersection with U. S. 501 if the site is developed.
Solomon indicated that a 50-mile radius is important for drawing an adequate labor force, which for Person County would include southern Virginia as well as east and west of our location. Machining and computer science workforce preparedness are keys. Five years ago Stuart Gilbert, former Person County Economic Development director, contacted Timmons Group about what was then code named Project Trace, involving 2,000 jobs and requiring 500 megawatts of power. The dual services of the Mayo and Hyco Duke Energy plants met this criteria. Duke Energy was a driver behind this effort, but Person County was not ready at that time. However, this opportunity spawned the creation of the current local mega-site.
The site has been presented to all regional economic developers, including those in southern Virginia. Solomon touted this as a tremendous opportunity. The state has developed a brochure about the semi-conductor industry, which includes the Person County site. He mentioned this as an opportunity to keep Person County young people at home with good jobs. An industry locating here would be a high tech operation, involving nanotechnology, and Solomon mentioned that there are five major N.C. universities that already have nanotechnology programs.
He emphasized the importance, for security reasons, of expanding chip manufacturing in the U.S., rather than relying on China and Korea where most are manufactured today.