ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: 'Project Topaz' moving forward

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BAKERSVILLE – The Mitchell County Economic Development Commission Board of Directors at its regular meeting Friday, Jan. 24, received an update from EDC Director Mickey Duvall. 

During his report, Duvall expressed his excitement for the EDC’s “Project Topaz,” which was approved by the Mitchell County Board of Commissioners in October and approved this past month by the North Carolina Department of Commerce Rural Infrastructure Authority. 

Project Topaz is a building reuse grant project that will aid the Mountain Community Health Partnership. 

“This project will help renovate an existing building to locate a first-rate quality dental clinic in Bakersville,” Duvall said. 

The next step for Project Topaz is the distribution of $45,622 of public funds for the project. The Mitchell County Board of Commissioners had a public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 28, about the distribution of the funds.

Duvall updated the EDC Board on another grant-funded project, which consists of the removal of the 250,000-square-foot concrete pad at the Mitchell County Industrial Site on Cisco Drive in Spruce Pine. Duvall has said in previous meetings he believes the removal of the pad will facilitate more interest in the site from industries hoping to utilize the site to expand into Mitchell County. 

Duvall said the project has gone smoothly and is now about 95 percent complete, adding that as long as the weather stays mild and dry, the demolition crew may have the project completed by the end of January. 

Duvall closed his report by offering an update on vacant buildings and potential business expansion. 

There has been interest in the Crimson Laurel building in Bakersville, the former Bojangles building in Spruce Pine near Walmart and the former Food Lion building in Grassy Creek, which Duvall said is being examined by a “national chain retailer,” adding more details may come soon. 

In downtown Spruce Pine, the Tokyo Restaurant building on Upper Street and Carolina Theatre building on Lower Street are both under contract to purchase. There are no additional details available at this time. 

Duvall added that with Mitchell County’s hotel feasibility study completed and posted online, a previously interested hotel developer is back in contact about expansion into Mitchell County. 

“I have re-engaged with a previously interested developer and we are now working on a possible hotel project in Mitchell County,” Duvall said. “One of the developers is in the process of vetting financial options with his lender.”