Upfront: The $100 billion milestone

 In November 2021

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We pack every edition of this magazine with lots of numbers. Often too many numbers and too little context. Some of my shrewd colleagues snicker at my insistence on backing up statements with data, preferring a more literary approach. I plead guilty. Too many editors locked the need for such attribution into my brain.

But a number caught my attention this month that deserves more attention. The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina says the pipeline of companies looking to relocate or expand in the state topped $100 billion for the first time in October.

“It’s a nice milestone,” says Chris Chung, the public-private partnership’s CEO. In a sector known for boosterism, he’s earned a reputation for professionalism as head of the industry recruiting group since 2015. The $100 billion is based on a spreadsheet of potential deals that is updated monthly.

North Carolina won’t win them all. Some won’t materialize. But the number reflects optimism for our state’s future. It also shows a bipartisan consensus among leaders about the value of more jobs and a stronger tax base. Our state leaders don’t agree on many important things. But welcoming companies of all sizes is a priority. It wasn’t less than a decade ago, Chung says, when the state missed out on some deals because lawmakers didn’t respond quickly enough.

“We benefit as a state when there is strong bipartisan support,” he says. “It’s a key reason we have had a strong string of major announcements.”

Nearly 20 projects of $1 billion-plus are eyeing North Carolina, and such major capital projects are becoming more common. “A billion-dollar project used to be a very big deal,” he says. “But you look at the announcements made in our state over the last year or two, like Centene, Apple and the Red Bull project [in Concord), and it’s different now.”

Chung wouldn’t disclose the names on the $100 billion list, but he says they are mostly “the sectors that are on fire” and in which the state already has a strong track record. That suggests biotech, logistics and manufacturing. Challenges are all around, but it’s a good time to be in North Carolina.

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Last month’s 40th anniversary edition sparked lots of nice comments from readers, many of whom are keen observers of our state. It reminded me that life seemed simpler during a previous stint at Business North Carolina in the early 1990s. The formula was straightforward: Write accurate, informative and pro- vocative stories that offer unusual insight into N.C. businesses, accompanied by some alluring photography and art.

Jennings Cool, associate editor at Business NC

That remains the primary agenda, but journalism’s shift to a digital, more graphical world requires new skills, quick takes and continuous improvement. We’re excited that we have a new associate editor, Jennings Cool, who brings talents that can help us keep raising the bar in print and online.

Jennings grew up in Charlotte and is a graduate of Appalachian State University. She’s written stories for our magazine and other publications over the last year while also offering content and marketing services for various clients. Being part of an entrepreneurial family has given her a sense of the grit needed to build a business.

Welcome aboard, Jennings.

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