Searching for Sunflowers - Carolina Country

Searching for Sunflowers

Economic development work is yielding big results

Searching for Sunflowers

Photo by John Flannery

In Anson County, the Atlantic Gateway Logistics Park contains 88 acres of undeveloped land along a rail line. Owned and served by Pee Dee Electric, the land is newly designated as a Cooperative Ready Site thanks to careful studies and proactive investments meant to attract new business, well-paying jobs, and greater prosperity for the region (see Local Insights Empower Economic Growth). The site recently earned a bronze-level recognition by CSX Railroad, which will give the site even greater visibility to quality companies that need rail service.

“The seventh cooperative principle of Concern for Community is certainly a driver of economic development efforts, but what may be less apparent is the careful attention to stewardship and conservation in how cooperatives work closely with county leaders in land-use planning and development efforts,” said Ryan Nance, director of economic development for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.

A potential problem arose during environmental assessments prior to the Anson County site’s certification: Atlantic Gateway contains the preferred habitat for an endangered sunflower species.

Three months of pre-development evaluations were spent ensuring the site does not host the endangered Schwienitz’s sunflower, endemic to central North and South Carolina and one of the rarest sunflower species in the world. Last year, environmental biologists waited until the sunflower’s blooming period of late August through October to familiarize themselves with a reference area containing the plants and conduct a thorough walking survey of the Atlantic Gateway site.

“No sunflowers were found, but this case illustrates the purpose of cooperatives’ and counties’ due diligence before presenting a site to prospective businesses,” Nance said. “This level of stewardship ensures that development decisions are well-informed and our state’s natural beauty is preserved.”

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