The announcement that the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), after evaluating having its headquarters in Greensboro, is now evaluating other cities as possible headquarter sites is an opportunity for Greensboro.
The opportunity lies not in Greensboro leaders seeing if they can convince the ACC that the headquarters is really important to Greensboro or that history and nostalgia are more important than convenience and profit.
The opportunity is for the leaders of Greensboro to take a hard and honest look at why, after being in Greensboro since 1953, the ACC would consider leaving.
In other words, it could be considered a wakeup call to Greensboro. Although it is widely agreed that Greensboro is a great place to live, while companies are moving by the busload to North Carolina, they aren’t moving to Greensboro.
Two of Greensboro’s recent economic development wins involved, not bringing in new employers and jobs, but paying companies that were already here not to leave.
So why is it that Greensboro is growing slower than the state as whole and much slower than other urban areas?
Mayor Nancy Vaughan once, when speaking in favor of economic development, said that she “didn’t want to be mayor of the fifth largest city in North Carolina.”
However, extrapolating from the Census figures, if Vaughan is reelected mayor next year, she will most likely go from being the mayor of the third largest city in the state to mayor of the fourth largest city in the state. Since 2010, Durham has grown by 21.4 percent while Greensboro has grown by 10.8 percent. And the announcements of companies moving to Durham and bringing new jobs keep coming.
Growth is all around Greensboro, but not in Greensboro. Why is that?
Developers who operate across the state, off the record, say that Greensboro is the most difficult place in the state to do business. If that isn’t true, why has Greensboro developed that reputation, and what can be done about it?
Maybe there is a reason that Amazon and FedEx located their operations in the tiny sliver of Guilford County that is in Kernersville rather than the massive amount of Guilford County that is in Greensboro.
Greensboro does have the highest property tax rate of any comparable city in the state. Members of the City Council say that doesn’t affect economic development, but maybe it does, and the City Council spends so little time and effort on economic development that councilmembers can hardly be considered experts.
From the cheap seats, it appears Greensboro’s economic development efforts are largely focused on the Greensboro-Randolph megasite, which is located entirely in Randolph County. For years, the word has been that a major announcement about the megasite is just over the horizon.
Maybe this time it’s true and there will be an announcement before Halloween that the largest automobile manufacturing plant in the world is starting construction on its new facility immediately.
But maybe it will be another two years or five years before the site is occupied. Can Greensboro afford to wait?
Perhaps none of those observations are a problem, but something is preventing Greensboro from developing and growing like other cities in North Carolina.
Whether the ACC leaves Greensboro or not, the fact that the ACC is considering leaving should have set off an alarm. Greensboro can hit the snooze button and go back to sleep like it did when VF announced it was leaving or it can jump out of bed figure out what is wrong and fix it.