At a Thursday, Aug. 1 meeting of business leaders, public officials and economic development officials at Grandover Resort, many in the room were highly optimistic about the prospects for Carolina Core – a one-year-old effort of the Piedmont Triad Partnership and others to work together on a regional basis to market four megasites in central North Carolina under one brand.

The project was a major topic of conversation Thursday morning at the annual Wyndham Champions Breakfast.  Carolina Core is being billed as “a cohesive platform and vision for Central North Carolina highlighting the cumulative impact of the region’s globally competitive economic development assets to attract new jobs, business expansions and relocations.”

Many area economic development officials are clearly extremely enthusiastic about the project and believe it could ultimately be something like a Research Triangle Park of megasite operations – however, privately, some elected officials and others wonder if what is at heart a rebranding effort of four separate megasites can have the massive transformational effect that’s being anticipated by some of the project’s biggest advocates.  Regardless, there’s currently a lot of optimism about the Carolina Core.

Stan Kelly, the president and CEO of the Piedmont Triad Partnership, was one of several speakers at the breakfast who predicted great things to come.

“One year into our long-term, 20-year Carolina Core strategy we are seeing momentum, collaboration and regionalism like never before,” he said. “While we still have a long way to go to reach our goal of adding 50,000 new jobs, the Carolina Core is headed in the right direction.”

Kelly added that, in the coming years, economic development leaders will continue to “double down on our strategies around the megasites, aerospace and our talent alignment initiative.”

According to Kelly, over the past year, the Carolina Core has experienced solid momentum and launched an aggressive marketing campaign.  The project, he said, is seeking help from site selection consultants, and backers are hosting visits to the region for some key consultants.

Kelly also said that several recent announcements indicated that the aerospace industry, a big component of the Carolina Core strategy, is doing very well in the region.  An annual study released this week, he noted, named North Carolina the 7th most attractive state in the nation for aerospace manufacturing.  He also pointed to Forsyth Technical Community College’s groundbreaking on a $16-million, 53,000 square-foot aviation lab at Smith Reynolds Airport as well as to Honda Aircraft Company’s groundbreaking on a $15.5 million expansion of its jet division, which will add 82,000 square feet to the company’s global headquarters at Piedmont Triad International Airport.

In addition to an update on the Carolina Core, the Aug. 1 breakfast meeting also featured a presentation by Inmar Chairman and CEO David Mounts on talent and entrepreneurship in the region. There were also presentations by BB&T Chairman and CEO Kelly King and High Point University President Nido Qubein on regional economic development.