Lawmakers Struggle with
Driving Jobs: It’s our turn for an Apple or Target!
Let’s imagine it, an alternative to sitting in traffic on I-85. Anyone who regularly travels between Highway 321 and the Belmont area or the Charlotte airport surely knows they are about to come to a screeching halt around these exits or anywhere in between during heavy traffic periods.
When the N.C. Turnpike Authority received federal approval of the Garden Parkway route, it was great news for the safety and efficiency of travelers on I-85 and for the future of jobs and economic development in Gaston County and the Charlotte region. The Authority now has the approval to move forward with obtaining construction permits and finalizing the project’s plan of finance, which will include a User Toll.
Economic growth in Gaston has been restricted by limited connectivity to Charlotte. But now, imagine 18,000 more jobs in Gaston County by 2035. With the construction of the Garden Parkway that is the projected number of increase in jobs for Gaston County. The most immediate impact on jobs will be the 2,600 temporary jobs during the four years of construction. Upcoming regional projects include the intermodal “rail port” facility at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which is projected to have a $9.5 billion economic impact over 20 years to the Charlotte Region. With the airport's expected growth, having a new 21 mile road with ten interchanges from I-485 to I-85 will bring better connectivity throughout the region and much needed new jobs.
For a case study, let's look at Lincoln County. The completion of US 321 from Gastonia through Lincolnton to Hickory made the development of the Lincoln County Industrial Park possible. The park currently has over 3.6 million square feet of manufacturing and distribution facilities with over 2,700 employees and an investment of over $350 million. All made possible by the "interstate" nature of US 321. Due in large part to the connectivity offered by US 321, the park now boasts over 16 industries, a $1 billion Apple data center just over the line in Catawba County and a 1.2 million square foot Target distribution center.
The Garden Parkway is the economic development priority for the Gaston Regional Chamber. The Parkway also remains the number one transportation priority as identified by the Transportation Advisory Council for the Gaston Urban Metropolitan Planning Organization and has unanimous support from the Gaston County Economic Development Commission. It is also a priority of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and the Regional Roads Committee, a consortium of chambers throughout the region.
Transportation infrastructure has long been the driving force behind economic development. The Garden Parkway will provide Gaston County and our region with a major new highway infrastructure needed to attract major industries
John B. Kimbrell
Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce
Charlotte Chamber of Commerce