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Regional Report Triad April 2010


LabCorp tests waters of a larger labor pool 

Mac Williams admits it grudgingly — after being prodded a few times. Yes, the president of the Alamance County Area Chamber of Commerce concedes, it hurt when Burlington-based Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings decided to put a billing center in Greensboro. But he says it didn’t sting when LabCorp’s CEO told a press conference Guilford County’s labor pool was a better fit for the project.

The medical-testing company will invest about $4 million. The center will open by June and create 350 jobs within three years, not including about 50 transferred from other locations. If all goes as planned, LabCorp will get nearly $900,000 in incentives, including $275,000 from the state. The $373,000 from Greensboro and $248,000 from Guilford County is only $17,000 more than Burlington and Alamance County offered.

A big consideration was labor. In announcing the project, CEO David King said company surveys indicated Guilford County might be better because LabCorp already employs the vast majority of Alamance County workers who would be qualified for the jobs.

That comment didn’t bother him, Williams says, because he interpreted the labor issue as one of quantity more than quality, though he admits it was expressed in a way open to other interpretations. Besides, labor wasn’t the only factor. The company wanted to take advantage of a good real-estate opportunity, he says. “I think if I asked David King to sit down with any CEO in the country and help me sell them on bringing an operation here, he would be a big booster of the labor force.”

This wasn’t the first time a homegrown company had spurned Burlington for its larger neighbor. The most famous episode occurred 75 years ago, when Burlington Mills, started 12 years earlier, moved headquarters to Greensboro for better rail access to New York. It became Burlington Industries, the world’s largest textile company before falling into bankruptcy and becoming part of International Textile Group, still based in the Gate City.

With about 3,300 employees in Alamance, LabCorp is the county’s largest private-sector employer. Its operations dominate downtown Burlington, where it opened a new headquarters building less than two years ago. Even as he announced the billing center, King reaffirmed the company’s commitment to the city where it began as Biomedical Laboratories in 1969, praising it and the county for creating a business-friendly environment.

Williams is just glad the project didn’t end up farther away. Greensboro, after all, isn’t a long commute. “Ultimately,” he says, “what’s good for LabCorp is good for us.”

GREENSBORO — The poverty rate in the Greensboro-High Point metro area increased 3.6 percentage points to 16.2% from 2000 to 2008, according to a Brookings Institution study of 95 metros. Charlotte’s rate was up 1.4; Raleigh-Cary’s, 1.6. The high unemployment rate here was cited as a key factor.

WINSTON-SALEM — The downtown minor-league baseball stadium will be known as BB&T Ballpark, after the second-largest bank based in the state. BB&T reached a 15-year naming-rights deal with the Winston-Salem Dash. Terms were not disclosed. The $48.7 million ballpark is scheduled to open this month.

MOUNT AIRYPike Electric cut 79 of 4,500 jobs companywide after a $4.7 million loss in the quarter ended Dec. 31. The company, which provides services for utilities, blamed the housing slowdown but wouldn’t say where the layoffs occurred.

REIDSVILLECommonwealth Brands plans to add 35 jobs by year-end at its local factory, bringing employment to more than 290. The Bowling Green, Ky.-based cigarette maker is adding a line to make tubes used by smokers to roll their own.

WINSTON-SALEM — Federal regulators want more information on three dissolvable smokeless products from R.J. Reynolds Tobacco — Camel Orbs, Camel Sticks and Camel Strips. Regulators requested research on how the products are perceived by users under 25.

WINSTON-SALEM — The city netted about $34,500 by giving Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker Dell a discount for early repayment of local incentives after the company decided to close its local plant. Dell got a $39,000 discount on the $15.5 million repayment, and the city earned $73,500 by investing the money.

DANBURYWake Forest University Baptist Medical Center stopped managing Stokes-Reynolds Memorial Hospital March 1 because the hospital didn’t provide enough referrals of specialty-care patients. It made a similar move last year with Hoots Memorial Hospital in Yadkin County. Kansas City, Mo.-based HMC/CAH now runs Hoots and Stokes-Reynolds.


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