The Greensboro City Council had no annexations, zonings or rezonings on the agenda for the Feb. 15 meeting, which may be good for the people who have to sit through those meetings, but it’s bad news for Greensboro.
With the announcements that Toyota Battery Manufacturing North Carolina is coming to the Greensboro Randolph Megasite and Boom Technology Inc. is going to build its manufacturing plant for supersonic aircraft at Piedmont Triad International Airport, over 3,500 new jobs are coming to the area.
Either Boom or Toyota would be considered game-changing economic development announcements for the area. To have both announcements in two months is something beyond game-changing.
In both cases, Greensboro agreed to provide millions of taxpayer dollars in economic incentives even though neither facility will be located in Greensboro, which means Greensboro won’t benefit from any property tax, sales tax or other tax revenue from these major manufacturing facilities.
The benefit to Greensboro has to come from the employees who will work at the facilities and from the multitude of new businesses that will locate in the area to supply parts and services to these major manufacturing facilities and their employees.
There is no doubt that it will be a huge economic boon to the area. The question is, how much of that will benefit Greensboro?
It is a great opportunity for Greensboro, but for Greensboro to take advantage of the opportunity, some game-changing is needed down at city hall.
The City of Greensboro has to radically change its corporate culture and become what it claims to be, which is business friendly. Currently Greensboro has the reputation as being one of the most difficult cities in the state to develop land or start and operate a small business. Big businesses get economic incentives from Greensboro but what small businesses get is mostly red tape and city officials who seem to delight in saying “no.”
If a company that plans to supply parts to Boom and hears from others in the business community that they don’t want to build their facility in Greensboro because the city will make everything more difficult and they should instead consider High Point, Winston-Salem, Kernersville or Rockingham County, that alone might be enough to convince them to locate somewhere other than Greensboro.
There are reasons that both FedEx and Amazon located massive facilities near the airport in the tiny portion of Guilford County that is in Kernersville.
Greensboro currently isn’t going to benefit from a lot of new people moving into the area because it has a tremendous housing shortage. According to the Greensboro Regional Realtors Association, there were 213 homes on the market in Greensboro during the fourth quarter of 2021. The City Council spends a lot of time talking about the need for more affordable housing, but what the City Council needs to concentrate on, if Greensboro is going to take advantage of this economic boon, is more housing period.
A number of homegrown housing developers are now building far more housing units outside of Greensboro than in Greensboro. Considering the need Greensboro currently has for housing, this should have already set off alarms at city hall.
Why is it that developers with headquarters in Greensboro who used to build predominantly in Greensboro have given up on Greensboro and moved into other markets in North Carolina?
One constant complaint from developers is how long it takes to get plans approved by the city once they make it past the often arduous rezoning process.
Another is the complete lack of flexibility or assistance from the city in figuring out how to solve issues. According to developers who don’t want to be quoted, but will fill your ear with off the record complaints, the attitude is, “No, you can’t do that,” without any suggestions on how an issue could be resolved.
Also, according to developers, it doesn’t help to point out that other jurisdictions enforcing the exact same statewide building code do make the allowances they are asking be made in Greensboro.
Greensboro has a great opportunity for economic growth, but unless there is an effort to radically change the corporate culture at city hall, Greensboro could see the area experience tremendous growth while Greensboro will continue to grow at 1 percent a year as it did in the past decade.