by: Tenikka Smith Updated:
SALISBURY, N.C. - Construction and utility crews are becoming a common sight in Salisbury and Rowan County as new businesses move into the area, and those that already call it home expand.
Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson said, "We're progressing out of the recession."
The signs of development in the county are evident, as several small shops and restaurants have popped up downtown – which is where the Lee Street Theater just expanded to a multimillion-dollar performing arts center.
Managing Artistic Director Justin Dionne said they had the option of moving out of the area when they outgrew their original downtown space, but opted to stay.
"We thought that by moving here and by putting our new space here on the corner with empty warehouses to the left and right, that it would help lead to other growth," he said.
A city representative said more than 200 business licenses were applied for between January and December 2013. Specifically, along the Interstate 85 corridor, more than 300 zoning permits were issued and more than 216,000 square feet of retail and commercial space was completed in 2013.
Woodson said each new business or expansion also paves the way for more jobs.
Just four years ago, the unemployment rate in Rowan County was more than 14 percent. It's now around seven.
"I figured up just in the last 15 months -- and everything's not open yet -- we've put back almost 700 jobs that we lost," Woodson said.
Woodson said local leaders are luring developers and current business owners with the county's network of high-speed Internet, tax incentives and grants.