CORNELIUS – The improving economy has attracted more interest among companies looking to move or expand in town, according to Cornelius economic development consultant Don Harrow.

The difficulty in ensuring they pan out is finding the right infrastructure and acreage to meet their needs and finances, Harrow told town commissioners Jan. 21.

Back in August, Harrow knew of 12 prospective business leads for the Lake Norman area, with three being in Cornelius. Now, he reported, the pipeline has grown to 28 projects, with nine of them considering Cornelius.

“At least in the short-term, the challenge for Cornelius is being able to translate leads into a sound investment and jobs. Today’s existing available buildings don’t match up with the requirements,” he said, adding that some businesses are looking for larger square footage and more acreage.

One such project is a business with 30 jobs looking for a 35,000-square-foot building for light manufacturing. The owner is leasing elsewhere, but would like to bring his business to Cornelius, where he lives.

“He has a very defined budget, but the goal is ownership with a long-term broad financial plan,” Harrow said “It’s truly a situation where we have the opportunity to find the right location and address those needs or at the end of the day he will continue to lease or ultimately invest elsewhere.”

Another prospective business is looking to expand and build a larger facility, plus a separate company is looking to bring a number of new jobs, though Harrow wouldn’t release the name.

Companies that have already committed to opening in the area are also drawing attention. People are looking more at Magnolia Plaza to be near the Publix that is planned for late 2014, early 2015.

Antiquity Town Center, a smart-growth community with homes, restaurants and retail near downtown, is planning a groundbreaking in April. The board previously approved a Harris Teeter and two outbuilding parcels, but thanks to growing interest in that area, Harrow said there is talk of adding a third building.

Another plan taking shape is a new sports complex near the I-77 Service Road, which would include basketball and volleyball courts as welll as soccer fields. Harrow said with the number of courts and the location approximate to restaurants and hotels, it has the potential to draw a lot of tourism.

Harrow has been working with developers for some of the larger sites, including the 104-acre Augustalee property, which had failed attempts for development. While he hopes to be able to make it something nice like a business campus, Harrow is working with developers to see how future improvements to the interchange may help the site. But he was told, even with those changes, they may not be able to meet the vision.

Besides the economy, other things have to be taken into account for changing commerce. The Salvation Army Center, in the site of the former Bi-Lo, wanted a better location with more visibility. The changes in the audio-visual industry forced the Blockbuster store to close.

“The focus is on bringing developers to take a look and freshen up the space,” he said.

Mayor Chuck Travis asked if the addition of Elevation Church, which drew a large crowd to Kenton Place in recent weeks, would be able to bring interest, as well.

But Harrow had the same answer he did for most of the projects, “Nothings happens in this game as fast as we would like it to.”