Marion’s business community experienced one of its most successful years ever from 2018 to 2019 and the growth continues.
That was the message from the annual report of the Marion Business Association, which covers the period from July 2018 to June 2019. This report was given to the Marion City Council Tuesday evening during the regular meeting for August.
“It’s a busy time in Marion, North Carolina,” said MBA President Boyd Phillips to the City Council.
During that year from 2018 to 2019, Marion had 21 new businesses open and 19 ribbon-cutting ceremonies took place. Of those, 14 new businesses and 11 ribbon-cuttings happened in the downtown.
During that same period, 12 businesses, including three in the downtown, closed their doors. Twenty businesses either moved or found a new owner and 22 commercial properties were sold. A total of 12 façade and sign grants were completed and 11 façade/sign grants were approved for 2019-2020.
Some other highlights from the MBA’s report for 2018-2019 include:
• Mission Hospital McDowell is now owned by HCA Healthcare.
• Marion’s first meadery, Keeper’s Cut, opened in May.
• Marion first downtown movie theater in 45 years opened in October - Mountain Marquee.
• Ice cream is available in downtown Marion at Artesana Ice Cream.
• The MBA Marketing Committee and the MBA Economic Committee are working on a Marion marketing plan.
• In the process for the future are Taylor Bros. Brewing in the old Laughridge Furniture building on West Henderson Street; a deli shop in the old Ideal Cleaners building on West Henderson; renovation for two upstairs apartments at 44 S. Main St.; the Feisty Goldfish at 45 Depot St. (retro arcade and apartments); sandwich shop next to P&R Produce; a trading post beside Link Hot Dogs on East Court Street; Shoe Sensation next to Harbor Freight Tools at the old Walmart (now under renovation); restaurant/convenience store in the former Big Orange Hoagie Factory (old Hotel James building); and Zips Car Wash next to the new and bigger Ingles on West Henderson Street.
• The Growing Entrepreneurs Marion (GEM) class presented 14 certificates to new business owners during 2018-2019. GEM spurred $588,188 in new commercial property & business development with $305,180 of that in the downtown.
• Business investments in Marion total $5.26 million
The 2019 calendar keeps growing with more than two dozen events that require the closing of a street. In addition, there are 34 days of the Tailgate Market, holiday events, free music every Thursday at the Depot and the Saturday gospel jams at Killough’s Music & Loan. Then, there are the special events at MACA, the City Stage, downtown taprooms and Mica Town Brewing and the Municipal Events Center (MEC). The second WNC Bigfoot Festival set for Saturday, Sept. 14 has already received national media coverage, according to the MBA report.
From July 2018 through June 2019, the MBA made 1,248 visits to business owners. As for the Tailgate Market, Manager Lou Godfrey and the Market Oversight Committee have done “a wonderful job,” said Phillips.
“There has been a significant increase in EBT/SNAP users,” he added. “Every vendor space is occupied and there are lots of new vendors.”
City officials said they are glad to hear about the continued progress in Marion.
“This is the best report we’ve ever had,” said Executive Director Freddie Killough.
In other business at the Tuesday meeting, the Marion City Council:
• Adopted a resolution authorizing Marion to apply for a financing agreement of up to $725,000 for the repairs at the Community Building’s park. In a similar matter, council heard an update from Finance Director/Assistant City Manager Julie Scherer about the repair bids for the park. Tag Contracting of Old Fort submitted the low bid of $462,200 to do the repair work but that came in over the budget. The engineering consulting firm of WithersRavenel and the city are working with this company to find ways to lower the price. They hope to have something worked out so the contract can be awarded at the Sept. 3 meeting. Scherer said they hope to stay on the same timeline so the park can fully reopen by next summer.
• Was introduced to new city employees. City Manager Bob Boyette formally welcomed Ray McDaniel as the new fire chief. In turn, McDaniel introduced Corey Presnell as the new assistant fire chief and Zach Loesekann as the new fire engineer. Planning Director Heather Cotton introduced Spencer Elliott as the new chief building official. Public Works Director Brant Sikes introduced Jason Bright as the new sanitation superintendent.
• Heard a presentation from Kitty Wilson with the Marion East Community Forum. She said Overdose Awareness Day will be observed on Saturday, Aug. 31 with a candlelight vigil and a proclamation from McDowell County officials. She asked the city of Marion to issue a similar proclamation.
• Approved the burning of a house at 157 Three Point Road on Thursday, Aug. 29 for firefighter training. Three Point Road, between N.C. 226 South and U.S. 221 South, will be shut down from 5 to 10 p.m. on that day as the house is burned.
• Approved a lease with State Employees Credit Union that will allow for an ATM to be installed at City Hall. A driveway at the City Hall will be leased at $300 a month starting Nov. 1.
• Approved the purchase of a new generator for the sewer treatment plant. Nixon Power Services of Charlotte submitted a low bid of $60,640 for the generator along with an extended warrant of $550. It will take 18 to 20 weeks for the generator to be built.
• Approved hiring the engineering firm of Gannett Fleming for the Lincoln Avenue culvert replacement.
• Announced the Sept. 17 regular meeting will be held with the Marion East Community Forum at East Marion United Methodist Church.
• Heard an update about the effort to have tall lights installed at the Interstate 40 exits such as those on Sugar Hill Road and N.C. 226 South. Some time ago, Mayor Pro Tem Billy Martin asked why Marion’s I-40 exits don’t have lights while the exits in Morganton already have them. Officials with the N.C. Department of Transportation have told Marion officials the exits here don’t have enough traffic to justify installing the lights.
• Adjourned the meeting in honor of the firefighters and the emergency personnel who responded to the massive fire at the Chamad warehouse (the old Clinchfield Manufacturing No. 1 mill) last week.