SILER CITY — The Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing (CAM) Site, a 1,802-acre industrial megasite in western Chatham County, is ready for launch — all it needs are heavy industry companies to move in.
“We’ve taken this thing as far as we can take it,” said CAM site owner Tim Booras.
That’s not to say the megasite is completely functional, but everything left to do must follow company commitments to build at CAM.
“Sewer is the biggest thing,” Booras said, adding “the new water pipe main extending down U.S. Hwy. 64 has successfully been run to the site ... Sewer right-of-way has been acquired, design has been completed and the sewer line is permitted.”
Companies can have running water and functional sewer within 12 months of committing to build at CAM, he said.
That leaves Booras and his partners at a critical juncture — waiting for companies to make their moves.
“There has been a flurry of activity these past few months as the state is entertaining many companies looking to expand, relocate or establish new operations in the state,” he said.
Almost 200 major companies have considered locations across North Carolina in recent months, including the CAM site.
“Manufacturing, food/beverage, agriculture, biotech, pharma, automotive and textile industry projects have all expressed recent interest in looking at locating a project in our state,” Booras said. “Most of these projects are typically considering multiple states so it is a ‘courting/incentive’ challenge for the state to be able to lure and successfully attract large projects.”
The pandemic has posed new challenges to site owners such as Booras who have historically attracted potential occupants with in-person tours.
“We continue to refine our presentations and are currently investing to clear vistas and add a viewing platform on the eastern portion of the site,” he said.
But virtual tours have been the site’s most popular viewing option in the last year.
“Twelve months ago, we had never done a virtual site visit, but now those are quite common where we are showing the site to prospects, over platforms like (Zoom),” said Brian Hall, director of development at SAMET Corporation — a Greensboro design-build construction and real estate development company contracted to oversee the CAM site’s progress. “We’re doing our best to create a site visit experience across a virtual platform. So upgrading our materials and ability to be able to highlight the benefits of the site virtually is really important, as people are making decisions from their home office as opposed to physically being out on the site.”
Hall works on “all things industrial development,” working with clients such as Booras to prepare them for the rush of company interest that has started in recent months. It’s unclear at this point whether the CAM site will be host to one or a few major businesses with hundreds of employees each, or several smaller tier organizations, Hall said, but whatever the final arrangement, the number of new Siler City jobs “could easily be in the thousands.”
“We are currently investing our efforts, ensuring we are properly prepared for a project with 500 to 1,000 or more employees,” Booras added.
In turn, county officials and staff are working to beautify the town in a bid to keep prospective workers from settling elsewhere.
“The county and local governments continue to address our local needs, as they arise, such as, where do we house these employees and how do we accommodate the need for increased water and sewer capacity?” Booras said. “Siler City and county officials are diligently working on solutions everyday, and have action plans in place for utility concerns.” (See story on Siler City’s water plans in this week’s edition.)
Chatham Park, however, just 20 minutes from the CAM site, is still “one of our greatest selling points,” he added.
“The CAM site is at a high level of readiness, and is certainly getting looks from large projects ...” Booras said. “Our investment in Chatham County and Siler City is actively pursuing many projects, of a variety of sizes, working to attract jobs and investment for our community.”