As he celebrated federal approval of Honda Aircraft’s new jet with more than 2,000 people at its Greensboro hangar in mid-December, Chief Executive Officer Michimasa Fujino cried as he described the decades-old effort to build a plane. Colleagues said he’d never succeed. Others doubted if Honda would provide sufficient resources. After an estimated $2 billion in R&D, Honda employs 1,700 in North Carolina to build the $4.5 million jets. Many expect the Japanese company to expand the site as it adds bigger jets. Fujino’s grit is reflective of Greensboro. The Gate City has to try harder given inevitable comparisons with Raleigh and Charlotte. It hankers for a signature industry and more young professionals with their nifty disposable income. But the city has hustle. And heart. And creativity. The resolve is evident in several projects taking flight in 2016.
Downtown Greensboro’s southern edge will get a boost when the Union Square Campus opens its first classroom building this summer. Future nurses and other health professionals will study at the approximately 80,000-square-foot facility, a joint venture of N.C. A&T State University, UNC Greensboro, Guilford Technical Community College and Cone Health. The $37 million Union Square is a smart play for Greensboro: Hundreds of nursing jobs remain unfilled in Guilford County, according to job-hunting websites.
Close to downtown Greensboro, a cooperative grocery store will sprout from the shell of a former Winn-Dixie on Phillips Avenue, an artery in one of the city’s areas devoid of supermarkets. Financially backed by individuals, foundations, churches and the city, the Renaissance Community Co-op will offer fresh and affordable food in a neighborhood where people often pay $5 for a gallon of milk at corner markets. The co-op, which is expected to open in May, will provide jobs with starting pay of $10 an hour. Organizers are within $120,000 of the $2.3 million needed to complete the project. “People all over the U.S. are looking at this,” says store manager Mike Valente. “This is the first regular grocery store co-op ever, as far as we know. Most grocery store co-ops are for organic foods, or they are buyers’ clubs. Ours is the purest, truest form of community co-op.”
The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, due for groundbreaking this year, will be equipped to attract the kinds of shows that now spark trips to Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh. Tanger, scion of the factory-outlet family, has picked up his parents’ philanthropic mantle and pledged $7.5 million toward the $75 million project. The city and private donors will make up the balance. “This is a major game changer for downtown,” says Tom Philion, president of ArtsGreensboro, the local arts council. “If you have the numbers and kinds of performances they’re talking about, it’s going to have a dramatic impact on downtown businesses that we’ve not seen in recent history.”
Paired with the National Folk Festival’s three-year residency — 2016 is the middle year — the Tanger Center will cement Greensboro’s reputation as an arts-loving town. When the national festival moves on, a permanent North Carolina Folk Festival will take its place. “It’s not all over in November 2017,” Philion says.
HIGH POINT — BNC Bancorp, holding company for Bank of North Carolina, will buy High Point Bank for about $141.3 million in cash and stock. Started in 1905, High Point Bank has 12 branches in the Triad region and $795 million in assets as of Sept. 30. BNC has 64 offices in the Carolinas and Virginia and about $5.2 billion in assets as of Sept. 30. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter.
BURLINGTON — LabCorp will acquire Pathology, a Torrance, Calif.-based laboratory with a focus on women’s health and reproductive donor testing, for an undisclosed amount. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter. The medical testing company based here employs 48,000 people in more than 60 countries, including 6,000 in North Carolina.
MOCKSVILLE — Accumed will move its headquarters from Buffalo, N.Y., and create at least 40 jobs. The new jobs will pay an average annual salary of $54,912, higher than Davie County’s $34,891. The company will receive up to $500,000 in state grants and spend $1.12 million to renovate a 78,300-square-foot building. Accumed makes medical devices including pregnancy tests and blood-pressure monitors.
BERMUDA RUN — Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center broke ground on a 50-bed addition at Davie Medical Center. The three-story, 78,220-square-foot building will cost $47 million and is expected to open in spring 2017. The addition will enable the Winston-Salem-based health care system to move inpatient services from its Mocksville campus.
WINSTON-SALEM — Richard Thornburgh resigned from the Reynolds American board of directors. A veteran New York private-equity manager, he had served as a director of the cigarette company since 2011.
THOMASVILLE — David Congdon, CEO of Old Dominion Freight Line, ranked 23rd on Fortune magazine’s Businessperson of the Year list. The carrier’s profit has risen fivefold while sales have doubled since Congdon became CEO in 2008 as it competes against bigger rivals FedEx and UPS.
WINSTON-SALEM — The first Krispy Kreme Doughnuts store opened in Africa. The Johannesburg location marks 800 shops outside the U.S. for the chain based here. Krispy Kreme plans to open 31 stores throughout South Africa over the next five years.