Guilford County is having trouble attracting NCAA Tournament games, Springsteen concerts and marquee automakers – but one thing this area is having no trouble getting whatsoever is hot-shot economic development officials from Mississippi.
Guilford County lured Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen away from the State of Mississippi’s economic development office two years ago and, soon after, he was followed by the chamber’s Executive Vice President of Economic Development David Ramsey, who was also from the same Mississippi office. Now, yet another Mississippian from the same economic development department – Jim McArthur – is coming to Greensboro to be the first “senior director for triad aerospace development.” Monday, April 3 will be McArthur’s first day on the job.
The new position was created by a collaborative effort between the Piedmont Triad Partnership, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, the Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) Authority, the High Point Economic Development Corp. and Winston-Salem Business Inc.
One major point of emphasis in recent years in Guilford County among area economic development officials has been the concerted effort to lure new aviation and aerospace projects to PTIA, and there are similar efforts at airports in Forsyth County and Alamance County – both areas that are served by the Piedmont Triad Partnership and by the new position.
McArthur has worked in marketing and business development in both the private and public sector for over 20 years, and he served as the deputy director for the Mississippi Development Authority. In that capacity, he worked frequently with aerospace and advanced manufacturing projects.
According to the economic development officials who selected McArthur for the job, he has a very good relationship with site selectors – the all-important consultants who help companies decide where to locate their businesses.
One of the key points of emphasis from day one for McArthur will be finding new aviation clients to locate at about 800 acres of available land that will soon be connected to PTIA. The completion of an airport taxiway bridge across I-73 and a project to prepare that land across the interstate for new aviation businesses will give the airport a great deal of brand new space for any takers.
PTIA Executive Director Kevin Baker said this week that McArthur’s office will be housed with the Greensboro Chamber offices in the Meyers Building at 200 N. Elm St., but McArthur will work closely with PTIA and other area airports.
Baker said McArthur’s efforts will be spread among various economic development agencies but McArthur had to be housed – and on the books – somewhere, and there was an agreement among the parties involved that it made sense for him to be put under the chamber.
Baker said he’s very excited about this area finally having a new position like this, focused entirely on aeronautic development and he is also, he said, excited about the person hired to fill that position.
“We’ve never had somebody that just focused on aerospace,” he said.
He added that airports in Burlington and Winston should also benefit.
“Certainly there will be a lot of focus on this airport [PTIA] because we have all this land,” he said.
When asked if there was a new policy that only allowed this area to hire economic development officials from Mississippi, Baker said, “It would seem so,” and laughed.
He said that a committee looked at resumes and created a short list of hires and, during the finalists’ interviews, McArthur rose to the top. Some of those other candidates were not from Mississippi.
In the end, McArthur was the unanimous pick of the three men who had final say: Christensen, Baker and Stan Kelly, the executive director of the Piedmont Triad Partnership.
Baker said that, from the start, the focus will be on attracting aerospace original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to the airport area. He said the terrific thing about getting aviation companies that make physical products to supply to the airline industry is that, in turn, that attracts other businesses, such as parts suppliers and skilled support services.
“It’s sort of the top of the food chain,” Baker said of OEMs.
PTIA is focused on attracting aviation business but uses the terminology “aerospace” because that’s the term adopted by the industry. NASA and SpaceX are unlikely to locate projects at PTIA, but officials are hoping that major aircraft product and services companies will.
The new taxiway bridge is expected to be complete in the very near future – though PTIA will still have to build and pave the taxiway. Then the airport will be about a year away from being ready for a new aviation business to open its doors on the new property opened up by the bridge. If there’s a great deal of demand for the sites, the airport has options to add even more land, creating an ever-larger megasite. Of course, those giant dreams will depend on aviation companies, and making that happen will be McArthur’s job in part.
Like Baker, Christensen had a lot of nice things to say about McArthur. Christensen is very familiar with McArthur’s contributions to economic development in the State of Mississippi and Christensen and he said he’s very impressed with that body of work.
“I think Jim is one of the best business development people I’ve ever met,” Christensen said. “He’s the consummate professional.”
McArthur graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and he worked in Biloxi for Yates Construction before taking a job as the director of sales for SmartSynch – a Jackson, Mississippi, information technology company that worked with smart power grids. His service area included the Southeast and some central parts of the US.
Christensen said one of the most valuable assets McArthur brings is his relationships with site development professionals.
“He’s got a strong economic development background; he worked with David and I in the State of Mississippi,” Christensen added. “We had some good candidates and Jim rose to the top, obviously.”
McArthur’s family will be relocating here after the school year ends.
McArthur’s hiring was a topic of discussion at a Thursday, March 23 discussion of the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA). At that meeting, when the Board of Commissioners Chairman Jeff Phillips and others asked if there would be other Mississippi economic development officials on the way, Ramsey said, “We don’t have any more.”
It is not known yet whether the Greensboro Chamber and GCEDA will make crawfish the official food for central North Carolina.
The trio does not have a catchy name yet, but the Rhino Times is working on it. The “Bayou Gang” sounds like they are doing something illegal and the Biloxi Triple Threat sounds a lot like a very strong bar drink. “The Mississippi Trio” sounds like barbershop quartet, and the “Bayou Boys” name is taken, but the “Jackson Faction” is not. “The Magnolia State Threesome” is not bad, though it lacks alliteration. The Rhino Times welcomes all ideas.