Why Triad is Poised for Business Growth in 2021
It’s been a tough year. Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the country’s – and world’s – economies. But despite the challenges posed by the virus this past year, North Carolina continues to attract new and expanding businesses originating within our state, across the US and even internationally.
North Carolina’s business environment continued to receive impressive accolades this year, tying with Georgia for #1 Top Competitive State for Business from Site Selection, 2020 (North Carolina was #1 in 2018, #2 in 2019) and #1 Best State for Business, 24/7 Wall St, 2020.
“That leaders in disparate industries are drawn to locations all across our state proves North Carolina’s broad appeal to businesses across the world,” said Frank Emory Jr., Chair of the N. C. Economic Development Partnership. There are several factors that establish North Carolina’s high rankings.
- Favorable legal and regulatory business climate
- The lowest corporate income tax in the country
- Low business cost
- World-class labor pool—including the largest manufacturing force in the southeast, and a young, educated and growing workforce
- Favorable, temperate weather
- Access to beaches and mountains
- Top quality medical facilities
Dariel Curren, EVP of Development Counsellors International, an organization specializing in economic-development marketing, said results of a 2020 corporate executive survey show 55% will bring back or expand US production and operations after leaving due to unfavorable U.S. trade policies and recent global economic uncertainties. During the pandemic, these executives became more interested in medium-sized, rural and suburban areas vs. large metros. “This is good news for Greater Winston-Salem”, Current said. The Triad, positioned between the two largest NC markets (Charlotte and Research Triangle), provides different benefits: little urban sprawl, less traffic congestion, a sizable workforce, and a lower cost of living.
Mark Owens, President and Chief Executive of Greater Winston-Salem Business Inc., feels Winston-Salem will likely benefit from businesses’ growing interest in continuing the work-from-home trend forced by the pandemic. “Growth potential is highest in the industries that Winston-Salem is best suited for, including biotechnology and life science, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage processing, and more.” Although high-profile relocation successes grab the most attention, he said, “more than 80% of new jobs come from existing businesses rather than relocation projects.” “Our major employers are likewise in industries that are primarily seeing resilience from the pandemic, in high-growth industries, and located in a business-friendly local economy that fosters their success”, Owens said.
NEW STRATEGIES FOR GROWTH
Owens said his Greater Winston-Salem team developed new marketing efforts to respond to the pandemic, including a refreshed website, digital advertising campaign, data tools and commercial real estate listings “that are designed to get the attention of businesses looking to locate in one of the best communities in the nation.” Marketing efforts should help potential employees to view Winston-Salem as a great place to work, live and play, as attractive as Austin, TX, Nashville and Denver.
Laura Johnson Lee, with Greater Winston-Salem, said “our strategy involves seeking new opportunities and working regionally for success.” “We’re collaborating with city and county partners to identify and market new industrial properties, including sites, spec buildings, brownfield sites and more. Existing commercial and office space is available with more under construction.” “We’re experiencing traction in our recruitment efforts, with positive reception from national site consultants and current economic development clients considering Forsyth County.”
Forsyth County and Winston-Salem have struggled for the past several years without ample speculative/vacant buildings or land ready for development, and that challenge continues to restrict efforts to recruit new businesses. “The current lack of sites and modern industrial building is one of biggest impediments to growth,” Mayor Allen Joines said in June 2019. And, the efforts to expand Winston-Salem’s downtown Innovation Quarter have slowed down as fewer buildings eligible for historic preservation tax credits are available. However, the completion of Winston-Salem’s Northern Beltway will open opportunities for new industrial development sites. Both UPS and Ontex were able to identify land (Alamance and Rockingham counties) for expansion projects, and Nestle Purina PetCare recently announced plans to renovate the empty MillerCoors campus in Eden.
“We have work to do, but I feel like we have the system and partners in place to be successful,” said Forsyth Manager, Dudley Watts. “We have a diverse portfolio of sites, land and commercial office space that’s suited to appeal to a broad range of incoming projects, and also offers our homegrown companies room to expand.”
Watts also stated that Whitaker Park Development Authority is working with Greater Winston-Salem “on a couple of projects interested in the 400,000-square-foot facility there which is currently leased by Hanesbrands.” “The 95,000-square-foot building, 605-12, has been part of many submissions, and is of interest to many as it has expansion potential and rail access”, he said.
Chris Chung, chief executive of Economic Development Partnership, said “we feel we will continue to put our communities into play for capital investment and job creation.” “I think there is very little that separates these regions in terms of a lot of the data,” Chung said. “Oftentimes, it’s as much about awareness and perception of what the Triad can represent for companies.”
Even though the Triad is shadowed by our larger neighbors, the better North Carolina does as a whole, the better we will do. Access to additional property via the Northern beltway, our strength in post-pandemic industry sectors, ample and highly trained workforce talent, and our high quality of life and low cost of living differentiates the Triad – we just need to get the word out.