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Industries that offer the best prospects for Chatham County

By Richard D. Allen
Posted Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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Pittsboro, NC - There is a lot of comment about how the old commissioners either scared away businesses from coming to Chatham County or weren't effective in bringing businesses to Chatham County, and how the new commissioners will do or are doing a better job.

I have to plead ignorance here, as I've only lived in Chatham County since 2006 and mostly just remember the waves of residential subdivision development sweeping eastern Chatham. Back then, I think I assumed that, for better or for worse, Chatham County's economic future lay in residential development - that it would be a "bedroom community" whether I liked it or not, as someone said.

Are there particular examples of the old board causing Chatham County to lose potential commercial development, or of initiatives by the new board to bring new business to Chatham County that weren't contemplated by the old board? If so, I'd like to hear more about them.

For my part, I think the following industries probably offer the best prospects for Chatham County going forward. I'd be interested to hear if others agree.

1) Agriculture - The traditional mainstay of Chatham County's economy. While agriculture continues to shrink slowly as a portion of GDP, with food transportation costs soaring and interest in locally grown food increasing, there should be new opportunities in Chatham County. While there are new small farms sprouting up, they're not big job creators yet, and they're not anywhere close to creating enough jobs to replace the departure of a single chicken plant. Will there be a way to help agricultural businesses develop in ways that both create jobs and preserve environmental resources?

2) Health Care and Services for the Aging: I know there has been talk of a UNC hospital in Pittsboro for years. This is such a growth industry, though, that there should be room for other businesses in the same sector.

3) Retirement Communities: See above. I think these will be the best bet for reinvigorating any sort of residential development in Chatham County. Developers bet big on subdivisions and lost, but another Fearrington Village-style development, hopefully closer to Siler City or at least somewhere further west than Pittsboro, would be a good thing for the local economy.

4) Alternative Energy: The solar sector is still underperforming somewhat, but the race for alternative energy sources is on, and it would be great to see some large-scale solar installations or some more companies in the solar sector out in Chatham County. Strata Solar is on the border of Orange and Chatham but their solar installation is planned for Davidson County - why not here? (See N&O article)

5) Tourism: Someone else made this good suggestion recently. How can we build the tourism sector?

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Industries that offer the best prospects for Chatham County

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