Backers of a new initiative to jointly market four megasites in central North Carolina as the “Carolina Core” said in late 2018 that efforts to propel the plan forward would ramp up big time after the start of the year – and boy have they: Carolina Core ran the table in January, being a key topic of conversation at the meeting of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority and the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA).

Last summer, the Piedmont Triad Partnership (PTP), a regional economic development group with a goal of promoting a 12-county area in central North Carolina that includes Guilford County, laid out the plans for the regional branding effort which extends well beyond the 12 county area, but it was only after the start of the new year that the big public push began.

The Carolina Core initiative is an attempt to link and market four megasites in central North Carolina under a single brand.  The megasite at Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) and the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite just south of Guilford County are both in Carolina Core, which is why there’s now so much discussion about it in area meetings.

Backers of the plan say it will have the potential to provide central North Carolina the same type of branding status that Research Triangle Park did for the booming area just to our east.

Currently, there’s a great deal of energy and excitement behind the plan, but some area elected leaders and others have doubts about the effectiveness of the huge new branding effort.  No one has said so publically, however, because they don’t want to rain on a giant parade at the very start.  They say that, since the grouping of the four megasites is largely a theoretical construct for branding purposes, it might not create the big splash that backers seem to think it will.

Despite questions in the minds of some, Carolina Core has all the energy in the world behind it right now and Piedmont Triad Partnership President and CEO Stan Kelly said he fully expects Carolina Core to have a “transformative” effect on the entire region.

When asked about the real world efficacy of the project given that it’s at heart a branding move, he said that, by linking the four megasites and the surrounding area under one identity, any time there’s a success at one megasite, all four sites would benefit.  He said that, with people across the country and world seeing the four as part of one unit along a major central state corridor, the status of all would be elevated.

“This is not unlike what happened in Research Triangle Park some 70 years ago,” Kelly said. “They had the assets of the universities and they put a brand around it, and we all know what has happened to that part of North Carolina.”

The megasites in Carolina Core include PTIA’s new 800-acre aerospace site with runway access, the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite with over 1,900 acres available for future tenants, the Chatham-Siler City Advance Manufacturing Site that offers 1,800 acres and the roughly 2,500-acre Moncure Megasite also in Chatham County.

On Thursday, Jan. 17, when Kelly spoke to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners about the project, he asked the board to approve a resolution supporting Carolina Core.

“We have been working for some time on transformational growth opportunities for central North Carolina,” Kelly told the commissioners.

He said the goal was simple: Bring thousands of good new jobs to the region.

“Our goal is to add 50,000 jobs over the next 25 years and, in 2018, we added 8,700 jobs, so we are making good progress,” Kelly said. “We believe that this will make our region, with the globally competitive assets that we have, more attractive as we market this region across the US and across the world.”

According to Kelly, the area around the megasites has “a unique set of assets” that include the appealing available land, the highway system, 30 colleges and universities and a strong infrastructure.

He also said a win for any of the counties is a win for the other counties since employees travel widely in the region for jobs.

“We have very good momentum – we have great support across this region,” he said at the Jan. 17 commissioners meeting.

“Together we are truly a global story,” Kelly said.

Kelly didn’t ask the county commissioners for any money that night but he did ask the board to pledge support for the program, which the commissioners did unanimously.

At a meeting of the Triad International Airport Authority on Tuesday, Jan. 22, Koury Corp. President Steve Showfety, the chairman of the authority, said Carolina Core backers had recently met with state economic development officials and said PTIA is proud to be a part of Carolina Core. He added that, especially with that collective marketing effort, he’s confident that “continued success is on our doorstep.”

Two days later, at a meeting in Colfax of GCEDA, Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Alan Branson spoke on Guilford County’s efforts to help Carolina Core succeed and the alliance members also got to meet Rick Reed, the new senior director for Triad aerospace development.  Reed will be in charge of attracting aviation companies to PTIA’s aviation megasite, which is expected to play a big role in Carolina Core.