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Regional Report Triad March 2011


Thrown to the lines at coliseum

As host to 21 Atlantic Coast Conference men’s basketball tournaments, the Greensboro Coliseum Complex has often resounded with the clash of titans. For fans, getting to the game can also be a colossal test of patience, especially when crowds pack the complex’s Special Events Center or its other venues. It happened before the Duke-UNC Greensboro basketball game in December, which coincided with two other events. “My wife and I, after paying $40 per ticket and arriving 45 minutes prior to game time, were turned away from parking at the coliseum with signs saying ‘lot full’ at every parking entrance,” a letter writer complained to the city’s daily newspaper, the News & Record.

“Bunch of cry babies,” retorted a WGHP Fox8 viewer on Facebook. Said another: “Any person with a lick of common sense should leave early enough to anticipate that kind of traffic! Then again, we are talking about Duke fans — lol.” Not everyone is laughing out loud. “We can’t have a traffic situation like that happen again,” Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan says.

Coliseum traffic, though painful, comes from an enviable situation: sold-out events amid ambitious expansion. Trying to live up to the “Tournament Town” moniker Greensboro has adopted, the City Council has faithfully supported its 52-year-old, 23,500-seat arena and added to it, recently spending $2.3 million on an interactive ACC Hall of Champions and $1.7 million on a VIP banquet room — both set to open this month. A $460,000 amphitheater will open in May, and an $18.8 million aquatic center will follow in July. Deputy City Manager Bob Morgan says staff is using a blend of private and public money to reinvent the complex and move forward in tough times. “We’re making small investments and getting big returns.”

But given the coliseum’s $1.8 million annual deficit, that’s not good enough for some council members, determined to reduce taxes as Greensboro reels from a lingering double-digit unemployment rate and exits of key employers. “It is a very challenging time of budget restraints, and it seems to be kind of ironic that we’re expanding,” Mayor Bill Knight says.

The council recently asked the city manager to identify 5% to 7% cuts in every department. That includes the coliseum, Knight says, but parking needs to be fixed first. Will it be done in time for the ACC men’s tournament, which starts March 10? “The ACC is a high priority for the city and the community, and the city always rises to the occasion,” Morgan says. “I think it’s going to be fine.”


Call center hangs it up

New York-based financial-services company American Express Co. will close its call center in Greensboro by year-end, moving about 1,500 jobs from the Triad. About 400 other employees will be offered the chance to work at home. The company, responding to declining call volume as customers do more business online, is consolidating operations elsewhere. The Greensboro center opened in 1986.

Quick, which way is the plane flying? Lines indicating motion usually flow behind a moving object, so it’s flying counterclockwise, right? But this is a rendering of the aircraft the Wright Brothers used in their first flight. The short wings were in the front, so it appears to be flying backward. Not so fast, says the president of BEM Group Inc., which with fellow Triad marketing company Vela Agency helped create the logo for the U.S. Figure Skating Association’s 2011 championships in Greensboro. The lines point to — not from, Malinda Pengelly suggests. “U.S. Figure Skating’s interest was in using the representation of the plane coming to North Carolina, U.S. Figure Skating coming to North Carolina.”


 WINSTON-SALEMNS Aviation plans to expand its aviation maintenance operations at Smith Reynolds Airport. It will add 308 jobs to the 31 it has at the airport within three years.

HIGH POINTJ.C. Penney will close its store at Oak Hollow Mall by June 1 and let go about 60 employees. The Plano, Texas-based retailer says the store no longer meets profitability standards. However, Penney will expand its fabric operations in Statesville, adding 225 jobs there to bring employment to about 350 by year-end.

STAR — Supply-chain manager Frontier Logistics opened a warehouse and transfer station here that will employ 71 within five years. Salaries will average $47,577 a year. The Montgomery County average
is $28,028.

GREENSBORO — The Piedmont Triad Airport Authority wants federal permission to assess a $4.50-per-passenger fee to help pay for recent projects at the airport. It would generate about $4 million a year.

WINSTON-SALEM — Four members of BB&T’s board stepped down after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. Among those retiring was lead director James Maynard, who had been on the bank’s board 25 years. Jane Helm, 67, replaced him as lead director.

WINSTON-SALEM Targacept reported good results from clinical trials of a schizophrenia treatment. Drug giant AstraZeneca is weighing whether to exercise licensing rights for the compound, TC-5619. If it does, it will pay Targacept $30 million immediately and up to $212 million more if key milestones are reached.

R.J. Reynolds Tobacco is seeking volunteers among its 1,400 factory workers to take severance packages as it prepares to close its Winston-Salem cigarette plant in June and consolidate production at its Tobaccoville factory. The number of jobs cut won’t be announced until later this month. In an unrelated matter, parent Reynolds American agreed to sell its Lane division, which produces roll-your-own and pipe tobacco, to Denmark-based Scandinavian Tobacco Group for $205 million. Lane, based in Tucker, Ga., has 110 employees.

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