At this time of year, college basketball teams want to be able to shout out “We’re number one!” but area economic development officials, elected leaders and others in Guilford County and the surrounding area are now happily shouting, “We’re number 2!”
The reason for those shouts of joy is that the March issue of the all-important Site Selection magazine named the Greensboro-High Point Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as the No. 2 metro area for new projects in 2017 among MSA’s with populations between 200,000 and 1,000,000.
The magazine, which is read by national economic development officials, business leaders looking for sites and others who make decisions on new projects, ranked the Greensboro-High Point area – which also includes Rockingham and Randolph counties – second nationally for new projects last year. In fact, the three-county area just missed out by a hair’s breadth on being No. 1.
Greensboro-High Point MSA had 41 projects announced in 2017 that met the magazine’s criteria. The No.1 MSA in the population range – Omaha and the surrounding area – had only one more qualifying project than Greensboro-High Point.
For the annual rankings, Site Selection counts “new corporate facility projects with significant impact.” Projects must involve new construction and meet one or more of the following criteria: add at least 20 new jobs, add square-footage of 20,000 feet or more to a business, or have at least $1 million in construction investment. The magazine doesn’t track retail or government projects, nor does it include schools or hospitals in the survey.
After Omaha and Greensboro-High Point, filling out the top five were the MSA’s of Toledo, Ohio; Charleston, South Carolina; and Greenville, South Carolina.
High Point Economic Development Corp. President Loren Hill said this week that local officials are very pleased with the recognition by the magazine. He said several factors are making this area a site of new business and expansion.
“It’s a wide range of things,” Hill said. “High on the list is workforce.”
He said that Guilford County’s easy access to highways is also a big plus, as is its central location on the eastern seaboard. That especially helps draw companies involved with warehousing and distribution services, Hill said. He added that having a big FedEx presence at the airport helps.
According to Hill, the new projects aren’t from any one single industry.
“What we like is that we have a wide variety coming here,” he said.
Hill recently returned from a national conference of site selectors held in Cincinnati. He said the weather was cold but the interest in Guilford County warm. He said a lot of business leaders and site selection consultants became more familiar with Guilford and Randolph counties through the Toyota-Mazda near miss. Those two automakers thought hard about putting a new auto plant at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite but ultimately chose Alabama for their a giant joint venture.
“Most of them know us well now,” Hill said of site selectors.
Hill added that Randolph County, which is included in the Greensboro-High Point MSA, had seen a good deal of economic growth lately.
“Randolph County has had some real success – they have done well,” he said.
Just last week, Fibertex, a Denmark-based personal care products company, had a groundbreaking to expand its manufacturing of materials used in diapers and other products.
Hill said the various regions in North Carolina provide data to the state and Site Selection magazine gets it from the state, so he hasn’t seen the list of 41 projects the magazine used, but he added it’s not hard to look around and see why this area ranked so high in economic growth in 2017.
In Greensboro, Ecolab/Kay Chemical is completing its 36,000-square-foot office expansion – that company’s fourth expansion since 1967. Coca-Cola bottling announced plans for a new 135,000-square-foot facility with an investment of at least $4 million and the creation of 15 to 20 new jobs. Also in Greensboro, Lewis Logistics opened a 120,000-square-foot distribution center that holds both finished goods and raw materials for area companies.
The High Point area has proven very attractive in recent years for business recruitment and expansion and that trend continued in 2017. Mickey Truck Bodies, a maker of beverage trailers, is in the process of adding 93 jobs. Furniture maker Crown Mark began clearing land for a $12 million distribution center last year, and Total Quality Logistics, a freight brokerage firm, opened a new operation with plans to add 70 jobs and over $300,000 in new investment. Level 4 Designs, a furniture company, opened an office in High Point with plans to add assembly and manufacturing operations.
The Triad Center, a 380,000-square-foot business center on Piedmont Parkway in High Point, continues to grow as well, with software company Superion and Ennis-Flint, a road pavement markings company, both moving in last year.
Small towns saw a good deal of business growth, which helped boost the Greensboro-High Point MSA’s ranking. In Stokesdale, mattress fabric maker Culp Inc. completed a 225,000-square-foot expansion. In Whitsett, in 2017, cardboard maker Pratt Display added 300 employees and Zink Imaging, which makes photo paper, added 69. In Colfax, Piedmont Hoist & Crane expanded its facility by 20,000 square feet and added 10 employees.
There were plenty of other new projects as well.
Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen said that, while this area recently lost out on the Toyota-Mazda plant, that near-miss meant good publicity for the area.
“They sure liked the megasite and they felt good about the workforce,” Christensen said of the Toyota-Mazda executives who ultimately chose a site in Alabama. Right after that painful loss, the lead site consultant on that project told 800 diners at the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner to “keep the champagne cold because I think we’ll be back pretty soon.”
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners held a closed session at its Thursday, March 15 meeting to meet with representatives of a mystery company to discuss an incentives package. There may be an announcement about that project soon.
There was a very upbeat feel to the meeting of the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA) Leadership Group and its Business Advisory Council at GTCC Cameron Campus on Thursday morning, March 22. The Leadership Group also held a closed session at the end of its meeting to discuss a new business project or projects.
At the meeting, Christensen held up a copy of the March Site Selection magazine before passing it around. He spoke on the No. 2 ranking of the community.
He pointed out that Publix Super Markets had just gone before the City of Greensboro and been approved for incentives for its proposed warehouse distribution center that will also include some manufacturing activity.
All this helped elevate the mood at the early morning GCEDA meeting.
“We’re still getting a lot of great leads,” Christensen said. “Activity is good. So hopefully Publix will be the first of many that we bring forth to these bodies for their action and consideration, but a lot of good activity is keeping us very, very busy these days.”
Leah Price, a senior vice president at BB&T Bank, said at the GCEDA meeting that what she’d seen from the commercial banking side was encouraging – with demand from investors, manufacturers and electrical contractors.
“There continues to be a lot of positive growth,” Price said. “I’ve had several manufacturers that have been looking for space.”
She added that there seemed to be a big demand for manufacturing spaces in the 20,000- to 50,000-square-foot range.
Attorney Kim Gatling, a partner with the firm of Smith Moore Leatherwood, said, “We’ve certainly seen an uptick in business deals for our corporate groups.”
In the new issue of Site Selection, the State of North Carolina also did well. It remained among the top-five in Site Selection magazine’s annual ranking of states attracting the most new and expanded corporate facilities.
According to the magazine, North Carolina had 274 qualifying projects announced in 2017. At No. 5 in the new rankings, North Carolina finished behind Texas, Ohio, Illinois and Georgia.
For the three prior consecutive years, North Carolina ranked No. 4 nationally in this category.