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Stan Kelly: Carolina Core is the future of N.C. growth

Posted Feb. 6, 2019

The next engine of transformational economic growth for North Carolina lies in the Carolina Core — an emerging megasite corridor between Winston-Salem and Fayetteville, in the heart of the state, which bridges the urban corridor with Charlotte and the Research Triangle.

The development of four megasites comprising more than 7,500 acres, plus industrial sites, urban research parks and mixed-use developments, presents large-scale economic opportunities in central North Carolina. Blending manufacturing with research and development, the four transformative sites — Piedmont Triad International Aerospace Megasite, Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site and Moncure Megasite — offer unique assets that will drive economic growth for the region.

Combining these megasites with a labor shed of more than 1 million workers positions central North Carolina globally as a compelling expansion site for industry.

Stan Kelly
[/media-credit] Stan Kelly

Eight million people, or 80% of North Carolina’s population, live in North Carolina’s urban crescent roughly between Interstate 95 in the east and I-77 to the west. This population is projected to grow by more than 1 million people during the next 25 years, offering the only realistic labor shed for transformational growth.

The public and private sectors already have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure, sites and higher education, which will support economic growth in the Carolina Core.

This growth strategy could produce more than 50,000 jobs over the next 20 years in central North Carolina and spur transformational growth in the Carolina Core similar to Research Triangle Park over the past 50 years.

The Carolina Core in central North Carolina is on a roll.

Year-over-year employment in the region is 17,200 higher than this time last year, and the unemployment rate of 3.7% is the lowest since 2006.

New companies are choosing to come here and grow, like Publix, Booz Allen Hamilton, Dowa Thermotech, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Amada, Egger and Fibertex. Existing companies continue to expand, invest and hire more people, including HAECO, FedEx, Superion, Cook Medical, Albaad and Cambrex.

Employment is also growing at Piedmont Triad International Airport — airlines are adding flights, roads and taxiways are being built, and the companies located there are expanding and adding jobs.

Significant investments are being made across the region, importantly in our downtowns, including Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem, the downtown High Point baseball stadium and the Steven Tanger Performing Arts Center in Greensboro. We as a region are investing in ourselves to achieve our full potential.

This is real and significant momentum, but now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. Competing states continue to prepare for the next big opportunities, and we must do the same.

Our position as a final contender in the Toyota-Mazda pursuit is proof that central North Carolina is competitive on a global stage. Our unique megasites are attracting interest by every large transformational project. Our workforce, infrastructure, energy programs, incentives and state income tax structure are all globally competitive. We are located in the middle of a state that is consistently ranked one of the best places to do business in the nation, with low costs, competitive incentives and first-rate infrastructure to access the world.

But to win, we must all come together to tell our story and continue investing in site readiness. Perhaps most importantly, we must recognize that a win for one is a win for all. The domino effect of winning, including adding suppliers and other supportive businesses, will benefit the entire region and state by adding jobs and spurring transformational growth.

There’s no doubt that we are stronger together, and the only way we can compete is through regional collaboration. Alone, we are individual megasites, individual cities, individual colleges or universities, individual research or industrial parks, but together we are a global story. And together we will win!

The leaders of this effort will create a legacy for the benefit of future generations and ensure that North Carolina is among the most prosperous and competitive states in America.

We hope you will join us in supporting this transformational growth opportunity in the Carolina Core. Our future competitiveness and prosperity depend on it.

Stan Kelly is the chief executive officer and president of the Piedmont Triad Partnership.

For 40 years, sharing the stories of North Carolina's dynamic business community.

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