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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Stanly County names new economic development director

Stanly County has a new director of its economic development efforts.

Elizabeth Underwood, who has been with Lake Norman Economic Development since June 2021, will assume the role of director of Stanly County Economic Development on July 15.

The Mooresville native and 2020 UNC Charlotte graduate says she’s looking forward to helping lead an entire county’s economic development efforts. 

“It’s a brand new set of challenges, but it’s also a brand new set of opportunities,” says Underwood. She will replace Candice Lowder, who took a position as associate vice president over Career Connections at Stanly Community College earlier this month. Lowder had worked for Stanly County since 2007 and with economic development since 2019.

Underwood previously worked for Beaufort County Economic Development on the N.C. coast before returning to her home county. “I feel most successful when I go past a building where we have helped locate a business and see the parking lot full of cars with people working at high paying jobs,” says Underwood.

Stanly County, with a population of more than 64,000 residents, is close enough to take advantage of being in the Charlotte metropolitan area, but far enough away to not compete for the same workforce, says Underwood. The mostly rural community feels it can sell its proximity to Charlotte’s interstates and airport, but offer something different to businesses looking to expand or relocate.

“It’s definitely an advantage to remain in the Charlotte metro, but we’re still far enough away to make our own identity and write our own destiny,” she says.

Underwood received her credential as a Certified North Carolina Economic Developer in 2022, and she is a candidate to receive her national Certified Economic Developer credential in the fall/winter of 2024.

She chairs the NC Economic Development Association’s Emerging Executives, which helps mentor newcomers in economic development. She and Trey Cash, the economic development director for Greene County, started a podcast last year titled “The New Economic Developers on the Block.” The every-other-week podcast interviews leaders in economic development from across the state and has 2,000 downloads. She says that effort will continue.

“We’re really pouring into the new generation of economic directors,” she says.

Underwood also says she looks forward to working with county and municipal leaders in promoting Stanly County to businesses looking to expand or relocate. The county seat of Stanly County is Albemarle, a city of about 17,000 residents.

In 2023, Charlotte Pipe and Foundry opened a $460 million plant in the Stanly County town of Oakboro, about 35 miles east of its home for more than a century. Charlotte Pipe has about 2,700 employees working in 10 states, including about 530 in Oakboro.

Charlotte Pipe and Foundry’s new $460 million plant in Oakboro.

Roddey Dowd Jr., whose great-grandfather, W. Frank Dowd, started the company in 1901 with 25 employees, said last year the move to Oakboro was needed because the Charlotte Pipe was landlocked in its location near Bank of America Stadium, home to the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte FC and dozens of concerts each year.

In talking about the move, he added Stanly County officials were helpful in making the transition from the city to a more country setting.

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