Mebane works to manage growth with more jobs and new projects on the way: Boomtowns

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Wednesday, July 12, 2023
Booming Mebane works to manage growth
Located in the heart of downtown, Junction on 70, Mebane is living up to the city's motto of "Positively Charming."

Located in the heart of downtown, Junction on 70 is living up to the city's motto of "Positively Charming."

"I think we still have, especially in the downtown area, a very "Mayberry" type feel," said owner Steven Krans, referring to the fictional North Carolina town featured in the classic series The Andy Griffith Show.

Krans opened up the restaurant seven years ago and says his business has grown each year.

"The White Furniture building around here has been a massive direct impact to our downtown traffic and accentuated in the neighborhood on the north side of the tracks," said Krans.

He believes the Orange County side of the city is primed for more development, which is where Jeremy Mercer and his family recently moved to.

"We were in North Durham. We were renting. So we kind of put our heads down. We were saving up through the pandemic and everything. And then we looked up ready to purchase a house and realized that the prices weren't what we thought they were," said Mercer.

As construction crews finish work on homes for Mercer's future neighbors, he explained why his family ultimately chose to relocate to Mebane.

"We were just thinking of the growth potential. That was something that we had in mind when we decided to move out here. I work in Chapel Hill, so just kind of want to still be close, even though I'm remote. So those were kind of the deciding factors for us. And then affordability, of course," said Mercer.

"I think tax rates are much better than our adjoining counties. So that is an incentive for a lot of people, particularly young people, to move and located to Mebane. A lot of the homeowners, one may work in Durham and one may work in Greensboro. And so it's really have been a very popular site for developers," said Mayor Ed Hooks.

There are currently 1,000 approved residential units - and another 1,000 - 1,400 under the city's technical review committee process. However, the city is strict in only allowing 350-400 new units to be built each year, as Hooks lists infrastructure as his top concern.

"We're expanding our wastewater treatment plant and we're working very diligently with the state and with developers to put in the roads that are necessary for these developments," said Hooks.

Mebane is split between Orange County and Alamance County, with Mercer, who lives on the Orange County side, noting his daughter's school is currently overcapacity, another byproduct of the fast-rising population. According to the US Census Bureau, the city's population increased by about 70% between 2010 and 2022, now approaching 20,000 people.

The residential growth has come in the midst of an economic boom in the area. Three specific zones have attracted the bulk of the attention, comprising between them more than 3,000 acres of land: North Carolina Commerce Park, North Carolina Industrial Center, and the Buckhorn Economic Development Zone.

"We have prepared for industrial growth in a lot of ways and on the east side of Mebane, particularly in Orange County, there has been dynamic growth in the Buckhorn area. Years ago, Orange County passed some sales taxes that used the funds to provide water and sewer and infrastructure for industry. And it has taken off with Medline. We've had Thermo-Fisher Scientific. We have an industrial park out there being built with 5,6,7, 800,000 square foot facilities. All the land that is available for sale has been has been purchased and a lot of plans we foresee in the near future to be coming into Mebane. So that is a dynamic part of North Carolina and as a very popular industrial site for industry in North Carolina," said Hooks.

UPS, Thermo-Fisher Scientific, and Sunlight Batteries have plants under construction, while Lotus Bakeries is expanding their operations. Combined, the four companies will invest more than $575 million and create more than 850 jobs.

Hooks acknowledged the rapid pace could be difficult for some long-time residents to face, though emphasized city officials remain committed to the downtown sector, noting it received North Carolina Main Street Program designation for 2023.

"That is a very difficult situation. We have spent a lot of time and a lot of money on our downtown. We have a dynamic downtown and I think those individuals that have been here for the longest keep the continuity of the town," said Hooks.

"We're definitely trying to get involved in the community, in the neighborhood. We got a nice snow cone place that we go to in downtown Mebane, and the kids get involved with the softball and everything this past spring. So it's been an enjoyable experience," added Mercer.

"There's always concerns about infrastructure, but we have a pretty amazing leadership team here in Mebane that is supportive of growth, development, revitalization," noted Krans.

Watch more ABC11 Boomtowns stories here.