Greensboro: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

For decades, the products of Greensboro's approximately 500 factories, such as Kent cigarettes and No Nonsense pantyhose, were known better than the city itself. However, an increasing number of companies have since discovered its award-winning quality of life, a low crime rate, and its thriving business climate including low lease rates and facility costs, below-average wages, and moderate overall costs appealing and have moved in or expanded their existing business.

The traditional industries—textiles, furniture, and tobacco—remain a dominant influence on the local economy, as does manufacturing in general. But unlike many other areas of the country with a heavy dependence on manufacturing, Greensboro has prospered—not suffered—as jobs have been lost to automation and foreign imports. Diversification has been the key. For example, the city has been an insurance center for decades. Jefferson-Pilot Corporation is headquartered in Greensboro, as is mortgage insurance provider United Guaranty Corp. Printing and publishing are growing industries. Gilbarco, a maker of service station equipment, is headquartered in Greensboro. Electronics firms such as Analog Devices, A M P Inc., and RF Micro Devices also have plants in the city. In December 2004 RF Micro Devices announced a $75 million expansion plan with a projected 75-position job growth. Vicks VapoRub, invented in Greensboro more than 75 years ago, is still produced there, as are other familiar products, such as Nyquil nighttime cold medicine, Vicks Formula 44 cough mixture, Vicks cough syrup, and Vicks cough drops (although the company has been taken over by Procter & Gamble).

International flavor has been added, courtesy of Twinings Tea of England and Fuji Foods of Japan, which located their U.S. manufacturing plants in Greensboro. Switzerland's Novartis located its dyestuffs and agricultural divisions in Greensboro, Sweden's Volvo Truck Corp. chose Greensboro for the headquarters of its Volvo-GM Heavy Truck Corporation, and Japan's Konica Manufacturing USA, Inc. located its plant for the manufacture of photographic paper in the city.

The opening of the Piedmont Triad International Airport terminal just west of the city in 1982 set off a building boom along nearby Interstate 40 and the feeder roads to the airport that has not yet shown signs of abating. The corridor is being called the "downtown of the Triad," and the chambers of commerce from the three Triad cities have joined forces to attract businesses to the area.

Items and goods produced: furniture, textiles, apparel, tobacco products, chemicals, electronic equipment

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Industries

Local programs

Both the city of Greensboro and Guilford County have incentive policies available to assist new and expanding businesses. One example is the Targeted Loan Pool Program that began making funds available in November 2003 to small businesses from a $1 million pool if they currently operate or plan to open in one of Greenboro's State Development Zones.

State programs

North Carolina, a right-to-work state with a low unionization rate, offers a revenue bond pool program through various banks. Several venture capital funds operate in the state and inquiries can be made through North Carolina's Council for Entrepreneurial Development (CED) that was founded in 1984. About 8,000 entrepreneurs also utilize CED's programs and services statewide. North Carolina offers State Technology Based Equity Funds providing financing for new technology-based enterprises, as well as TDA incubators for firms transferring new technologies into commercial applications. The state issues Industrial Revenue Bonds for new and expanding businesses empowering them to provide good employment and wage opportunities for their workers. The state offers an income tax allocation formula that permits the double weighting of sales in calculating corporate income tax. The North Carolina Department of Transportation administers a program that provides for the construction of access roads to industrial sites and road improvements in areas surrounding major corporate installations. A 4 percent tax credit is available to new and expanding companies via the William S. Lee Act for machinery and equipment investments over $2 million, along with a jobs tax credit, worker training tax credit, research and development tax credits, and business property tax credits.

Job training programs

The state of North Carolina's Division of Employment and Training offers a unique system of job training programs available to any new or expanding manufacturing employer creating a minimum of 12 new production jobs in the state, and to any new or prospective employee referred for training by a participating company. The industrial training service provides great versatility in terms of types and length of training, and classes can be held in a company's plant or on the campus of one of the state's community colleges. The state of North Carolina furnishes instructors and, at the company's request, may test and screen job candidates. Employees may be trained before or after employment by the company. The industrial training service is financed solely by the state of North Carolina.

Development Projects

Greensboro's Economic Development Office manages and supports development projects throughout the community. One critical project was the $20 million First Horizon Park that opened in the spring of 2005 with more than 5,000 seats and a wide variety of amenities for the Class A baseball team, the Greensboro Grasshoppers (name changed from the Bats, concurrent with the move). At a cost of $500 million, a FedEx hub, to be only the fifth in the nation, is targeted for completion in 2009 and is expected to create 1,500 jobs at the Piedmont Triad International Airport. In February 2005 computer giant Dell began building in nearby Winston-Salem, a deal that Greenboro's officials were prominent in procuring as it will bring the region about 1,500 jobs. A 29-acre development was in progress in spring 2005 along Eastchester Drive that is to include a rebuilt version of Kepley's Barn (a reception hall destroyed by a 2001 fire) plus retail stores and a hotel.

Economic Development Information: Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, 342 N. Elm St., Greensboro, NC 27401; telephone (336)275-8675; fax (336)275-9299

Commercial Shipping

Greensboro is a hub for moving freight nationwide by rail or truck. More than 50 motor freight trucking firms have offices in Greensboro, and Norfolk Southern Railway Corporation operates one of the most active intermodal facilities in its 20-state system in Greensboro. Dedicated piggybacks hauling trailers travel out of Greensboro. Norfolk Southern provides second-morning service for freight going to Chicago from Greensboro and third-day service to the West Coast.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

In addition to its role as a government center, Greensboro serves as a business, financial, and retail hub for the county and for a semicircle of more rural counties to the north, south, and east. The city's major industry is manufacturing, from textiles to electronics, but retail and wholesale trade, finance, insurance, real estate, and the service sector also are major parts of the economy. Factors that are attracting companies to Greensboro include a large and growing Triad population base of nearly 1.4 million people (projected in 2005) from which to draw employees; a motivated and trainable work force; a physical site available at a reasonable price; sophisticated telecommunications capabilities; a location near a major airport and highway network; and a respected community college system that provides employee training assistance at no charge through a state program. With the expansion of existing business (759 in 2004, generating nearly $145 million) and the creation of new business (75 in 2004 and nearly $225 million) the job market will continue to be an active one.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Greensboro metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of nonagricultural labor force: 354,900

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 18,800

manufacturing: 66,100

trade, transportation, and utilities: 72,100

information: 6,700

financial activities: 19,700

professional and business services: 43,100

educational and health services: 42,200

leisure and hospitality: 29,500

other services: 15,500

government: 41,300

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $13.49

Unemployment rate: 4.7% (December 2004)

Greensboro: Economy

Largest employers (Greensboro MSA) Number of employees
Guilford County Public Schools 7,900
Moses H. Cone Health System & Affiliates 7,000
U.S. Postal Service 3,367
American Express 3,200
Guilford County 3,000
City of Greensboro 2,935
Volvo Trucks North America 2,200
United Parcel Service 2,100
Bank of America, N.A. 2,000
Lorillard Tobacco 1,950

Cost of Living

The cost of housing in Greensboro is slightly below the national average, as are costs for food, utilities, and other necessities.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors for the Greensboro area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $216,660 (Winston-Salem)

2004 (3rd Quarter ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 89.3 (U.S. average = 100.0) (Winston-Salem)

State income tax rate: Ranges from 6.0% to 8.25%

State sales tax rate: 4.5% (food and prescription drugs are exempt; food sales are subject to local sales taxes)

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 2.5% (county-wide) (restaurant food sales are subject to local sales tax of 7.5%; 2.0% in grocery stores for food)

Property tax rate: $.5675 per $100 of assessed valuation (assessed valuation = 100% of market value)

Economic Information: Greensboro Area Chamber of Commerce, 324 N. Elm St., Greensboro, NC 27401; telephone (336)275-8675; fax (336)275-9299