By Collin Huguley Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal -
Donny Hicks, executive director of the Gaston County Economic Development Commission, gave a presentation Thursday touting the strong industrial development activity in the county. With several key projects in tow and market trends benefitting Gaston County, experts also believe that county is an emerging hotbed for industrial development.
Hicks spoke Thursday morning at Good Morning Gaston, a regular event put on by the Gaston Business Association. During his presentation, he said Gaston County could see 6 to 8 million square feet of new industrial development in the next few years. In the past 30 years, Gaston County has had around 8 million square feet of industrial space developed, Hicks said.
The new activity is led by NorthPoint Development, which is developing Gateway85 at the former Lineberger family site between Gastonia and Lowell. The project will bring between 3 million and 4 million square feet of development alone. Trinity Capital Advisors is also developing Delta Industrial Park, which will bring up to 1 million square feet of space in Gastonia.
Unlocking the Lineberger site has been in the works for decades in Gaston County. Now, a huge project is teed up that could pave the way for more big developments in the county.
"You look at what's happening in the Charlotte region and there's a lot of interest in the industrial sector and I don't see that going away," Hicks said. "Our market is substantially underbuilt."
The Charlotte industrial real estate market has been red hot recently. It saw more than 5 million square feet of net absorption in 2020, according to an Avison Young market report. But, the Gaston County submarket accounted for just 10,825 of that net absorption, according to the report.
Gaston County also had a vacancy rate of just 1.6% at the end of 2020, according to Avison Young's research. In short, Gaston County needs more sites and buildings that are ripe for tenants.
"There is no place for somebody to expand to and there's no place for somebody to locate to," Hicks said. "That is a high-class problem to have but it is not the best for recruitment and expansion of local companies."
The county has worked to try and spur development itself by developing its own industrial parks. It did so at the 422-acre Gastonia Technology Park and is replicating that blueprint at the 330-acre Apple Creek Corporate Center.
Those efforts have gotten Gaston County into the industrial real estate game, said Chris Skibinski, principal at Avison Young's Charlotte office. He is "very bullish" on Gaston County and said that the increase in activity is a positive step toward maximizing it as a strong submarket. It makes sense for the development to head west of Charlotte, Skibinski said, just as it did surrounding Charlotte Douglas International Airport in recent years.
Jon Morris, senior partner for industrial at Beacon Partners, said the new projects in Gaston County show that it could be an industrial hotspot. It helps that Gaston County is part of, perhaps, the most attractive industrial corridor in the Charlotte region.
“It is on the I-85 corridor," Morris said. "Now that there are sites, I think it’ll be interesting.”
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