Based on all appearances, the most important event in the history of Greensboro happened on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019.

A Trader Joe’s opened for business.

There was so much excitement around the opening of the store that, all day on the store’s first day, from open until close, Trader Joe’s was a mob scene as the customers – some of them with an almost cult-like devotion to the chain that started in California in 1958 – swarmed the place.

There’s no question that the new Trader Joe’s at 3721 Battleground Ave. will be a hit with customers even after the enthusiasm of the first few weeks dies down.  But the opening of the store could also be something that helps draw other businesses to Guilford County by bumping up the city’s image a notch.

Since Trader Joe’s is such a high-profile retail outlet that many shoppers know and love, the store’s presence in Greensboro can create a more attractive impression of the general area to outsiders – including to company leaders who are considering locating a new business in Guilford County.

Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen and High Point Economic Development Corp. President Loren Hill, the two main leaders of economic development efforts in Guilford County, both said this week the store’s presence here is a strong positive for the county.   Both said that – though they can’t recall any economic development prospect asking them specifically if the county had a Trader Joe’s – the addition of highly desirable retail outlets helps beef up the area’s image quotient and it can be key to how others view the quality of life in a place.

Christensen said prospective companies and site selectors want to see some of those retailers in an area they select.

“It’s a shorthand for determining what the quality of life is,” Christensen said of the way outsiders look at the presence of well-loved retail outlets.

He said an Apple Store in a community is another business that helps create a positive attitude about a city or county.  Christensen said that, when his family found out he was moving to Greensboro several years ago, the only thing his kids wanted to know was this: “Is there an Apple Store there?”

He said that having an Apple store, a Trader Joe’s and other well-loved retail chains are a selling point.

Popular nationally known restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory and PF Chang’s also help elevate the image of a city or county.

Christensen said he’s visited other cities where economic development officials felt as though having a Topgolf establishment was a big boost to their efforts to bring in businesses since Topgolf appeals especially to those in the young adult demographic.  Those are very popular technology-based driving ranges that provide other amenities and some younger professionals like to know that there’s one in a city before deciding to move there.

Like having a Trader Joe’s, it may not be a make or break factor, but it can help tilt the decision needle in a positive direction.

Hill also said new retail offerings help economic development officials sell this area to prospects.

“We’re excited about Trader Joe’s,” Hill said, adding that he and others are also excited about the new Publix Supermarket presence in the county.

Hill said that he has family members in northern Virginia and he said that, whenever they traveled north to visit those family members, the car would have bags of Trader Joe’s items on the return trip.

The arrival of a Trader Joe’s in Greensboro also helps undo something in the past that made the city not look very “business friendly.”  When Trader Joes first attempted to open a store in Greensboro five years ago on West Friendly Avenue, that effort was fought tooth and nail by nearby neighborhood residents – and the fact that Trader Joe’s ultimately pulled out created the impression in the minds of some that Greensboro wasn’t a welcoming place for new businesses.  The opening of a Trader Joe’s in Greensboro helps put that chapter of city’s history to rest.