North Carolina: Rising Star With A Global Reach

In the last century, our 2020 State of the Year has been tops in tobacco, textiles and furniture. Today, North Carolina is on the cutting edge of advanced manufacturing, biotech, gene therapy and unmanned aerial systems.

By the Business Facilities Staff
From the January/February 2021 Issue

North Carolina is Business Facilities’ 2020 State of the Year, the first time NC has earned BF’s top honor, which has been bestowed annually by the magazine since 2007.

“North Carolina has been a rising star on our radar for several years,” BF Editor in Chief Jack Rogers said. “The successful execution of a regional economic development strategy targeting a diverse group of growth sectors in North Carolina is reflected in the proliferation of top-ten results for NC in our state rankings.”

North Carolina 2020 State of the YearNC’s rise to the top was reflected in BF’s 2020 State Rankings Report. North Carolina was ranked among the top 10 states in rankings categories including Best Business Climate, Workforce Development, Manufacturing Employment, Foreign Direct Investment, Biotechnology, Installed Solar Power, Unmanned Aerial Systems and Fastest-Growing States (Population).

“North Carolina is leveraging its advantages—including a prime logistics location, a steadily expanding skilled workforce and impressive higher education resources—to seal the deal on one big project after another,” Rogers said.

“The Tar Heel State has put down a marker that it’s ready to compete for a leadership position in the emerging growth sectors of the 21st century,” he added.

North Carolina’s largest recent project (by capital investment) is a good benchmark for measuring what’s gone right with the Tar Heel State’s economic development strategy. Centene’s $1-billion regional headquarters in Charlotte will create 3,237 healthcare management jobs with average annual salaries of more than $100,000.

The Centene project represents forward economic momentum for three of the Charlotte Region’s growing sectors: insurance, healthcare and technology.

Healthcare insurance companies have added more than 3,000 jobs in the region since 2010, and with the growth of cloud, data and analytics capabilities, all industries are scaling up their tech talent. With a strong base of information security professionals, Charlotte is primed to grow in this space. More than 40 health tech startups call the region home. These companies are incorporating technology into daily hospital management, online patient consultation and software design across the healthcare industry.

The Charlotte region continues to expand its footprint in the financial services sector. PennyMac Financial Services, Inc., a California-based specialty financial services firm, recently announced it will create more than 300 jobs in Wake County. The company will invest $4.3 million into PennyMac Loan Services, LLC, its mortgage lending subsidiary, to establish a mortgage fulfillment production center in Cary.

“Growing companies like PennyMac Financial want to expand in North Carolina even during a pandemic because of our strong talent pipeline, steady business climate and our exceptional quality of life,” said Gov. Roy Cooper.

Intercontinental Capital Group Inc, a direct mortgage lender specializing in single-family residential properties, will expand its Charlotte operations, adding 500 jobs over the coming five years.


Resources from North Carolina’s thriving biotechnology sector are playing a leading role in the fight against COVID-19.

In November, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) approved a $590 million loan to help ApiJect Systems, Corp. build a one million-square-foot, multi-facility campus at the edge of Research Triangle Park in Durham, NC. The Connecticut-based company will manufacture its experimental injection device for the mass delivery of vaccines at the new ApiJect Gigafactory, which will employ approximately 650 workers.

The loan will help ApiJect deliver a projected annual capacity of up to three billion vaccine doses, a monthly capacity equal to the full U.S. population coverage. The facility will be able to handle 15 different drugs, vaccines and therapeutics at the same time, including almost all leading COVID-19 candidates. Additionally, ApiJect will have the ability to switch production quickly, allowing the company to produce in mass quantities and rapidly change to more effective or efficient vaccines as needed.

The project marks the first approved loan under the Defense Production Act (DPA) that enables DFC and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to collaborate in support of the domestic response to COVID-19.

This new facility brings together the aseptic drug packaging technology known as Blow-Fill-Seal (BFS) with ApiJect’s proprietary pen needle-style hubs to package drugs reliably and safely in BFS prefilled injectors. BFS uses pharmaceutical-grade plastic resin to create, fill and seal a strip of 12-25 drug containers per production line every three seconds in a single, highly efficient process.

The Gigafactory will be Biosafety Level 2 (BSL-2) capable and support vaccine candidates that require standard cold storage or ultra-cold storage down to -70 degrees Celsius. Each manufacturing line will be isolated, allowing for up to 15 different drugs to be packaged simultaneously. In addition to its BFS production lines, the ApiJect campus will house two separate special-purpose drug manufacturing facilities to handle drugs such as the next generation of antibiotics and cytotoxic drugs, plus an onsite needle and cannula factory to ensure a domestic supply of this important medical supply chain item.

Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, recently invested more than $650 million to build a new production facility at its Maurice R. Hilleman Center for Vaccine Manufacturing in Durham and expand its packaging operations in Wilson, creating a total of 400 new jobs.

This project will enable Merck to meet growing demand for GARDASIL and GARDASIL 9 recombinant human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which is used to prevent several cancers associated with HPV.

“The life science industry cluster in North Carolina enjoys a well-earned reputation as one of the nation’s leading centers for biotech innovation,” said North Carolina Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “Merck’s long experience in our state gave them the confidence to bring this important new operation to North Carolina.”

North Carolina is poised to become a national leader in the emerging growth sector of gene therapy.

Gov. Cooper recently announced that Adverum Biotechnologies, Inc., a California-based gene therapy company targeting unmet medical needs in ocular and rare diseases, will invest $82.8 million for a new gene therapy manufacturing facility in Durham County, creating 200 new jobs.

“Our state’s dynamic workforce continues to propel life-changing innovation and keeps North Carolina at the forefront of biomanufacturing through life sciences companies like Adverum,” Gov. Cooper said.

The Redwood City, CA-based biotechnology company is developing its lead gene therapy candidate ADVM-022 in ongoing clinical trials for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic macular edema (DME). ADVM-022 is administered as a potential one-time, intravitreal injection for the treatment of wet AMD and DME, ocular diseases that impact millions of patients worldwide.

Taysha Gene Therapies, Inc., a patient-centric gene therapy company, has selected Durham as a site for its gene therapy manufacturing facility.

The site is expected to create 200 jobs over the next two and a half years. The Research Triangle area project confirms North Carolina’s growing role in gene therapy, a promising approach for fighting a host of challenging genetic diseases. “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of science and innovation to keep us healthy,” Gov. Cooper said. “Companies like Taysha Gene Therapies continue to expand in North Carolina because we have the scientists, skilled workers and climate for innovation they need to tackle healthcare’s toughest challenges.”

Taysha Gene Therapies, headquartered in Dallas, is developing an extensive portfolio of gene therapies and expects to file as many as four Investigational New Drug (IND) applications for its product candidates next year. In Durham, the company plans to invest $75 million in capital expenditures over a period of two and a half years to build out and operate a 187,000-square-foot, commercial-scale manufacturing facility for preclinical, clinical and commercial production of its gene therapy product candidates. The site will be developed to meet the rigorous FDA benchmark of a current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) facility.

“North Carolina has a thriving life sciences ecosystem with significant expertise in gene therapy manufacturing, and we are delighted to establish our manufacturing center in Durham,” said RA Session II, President, Founder and CEO of Taysha.

“North Carolina continues to lead the way into new frontiers of medicine,” said Commerce Secretary Anthony M. Copeland. “Taysha Gene Therapies joins the nation’s most vibrant center for the life science industry, and I look forward to seeing their contributions add to the stellar reputation of North Carolina’s Research Triangle region.”


North Carolina’s economic base in the last century was centered on tobacco, textiles and furniture.

With world-class research and higher-ed facilities, NC has transformed itself into a forward-thinking, knowledge-based economy with the largest advanced manufacturing workforce in the southeastern United States. North Carolina is home to 40,000 engineers, with the state’s 53 universities and colleges a major source of talent for aerospace engineers.

Pratt & Whitney, a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft and helicopter engines, and auxiliary power units, recently announced it will invest $650 million through 2027 in a new Buncombe County, NC manufacturing facility.

“This investment will enable Pratt & Whitney to continue to modernize and transform its operations with cutting-edge technologies,” said Chris Calio, president, Pratt & Whitney. “Turbine airfoils are a critical component across our engine portfolio and demand will increase significantly as the market recovers over the next several years. We need to invest today to ensure that we have the infrastructure, production capabilities and workforce in place to meet future market demand and to provide the best products to our customers worldwide.”

Company plans call for the development of a new 1 million-square-foot advanced manufacturing facility on a 100-acre tract overlooking Interstate 26, south of the French Broad River.

The company’s planned facility marks the first private investment to be located in the Biltmore Park West development, a 1,000-acre, master-planned development located in south Buncombe County developed by Biltmore Farms, LLC.


Last year, semiconductor and LED maker Cree Inc. announced will invest up to $1 billion in expansion of its silicon carbide capacity with the development of an automated silicon carbide fabrication facility and a materials mega factory at its U.S. campus headquarters in Durham, NC.

Integro Technologies Corp., an industrial automation company, is expanding in Rowan County with a $2.67 million investment for additional assembly, logistic solution prototyping and manufacturing space in Salisbury.

“This expansion by Integro Technologies showcases our state’s productive, tech-savvy workforce,” Gov. Cooper said. “This homegrown North Carolina company provides customized inspection solutions that meet the fast-changing needs of global industry and will grow jobs in Rowan County.”

Integro Technologies established a corporate headquarters in Salisbury, North Carolina in 2005. Integro is a machine vision, artificial intelligence, logistics and robotics integrator that designs and develops custom automated solutions for a range of industries, including advanced manufacturing, e-commerce, medical device and pharmaceuticals. Integro’s engineered quality inspection solutions utilize high-speed 3D imaging technology, deep learning techniques, vision guided robotics and other advanced technologies that are leveraged by customers like Energizer, Kimberly Clark, Toyota and Eli Lilly within their operations.

Nuvotronics, an advanced technology manufacturer of microelectronics components and subsystems, will invest $50 million over five years to increase their manufacturing footprint and production capabilities in Durham to support projected growth in the business. Nuvotronics produces microfabricated radio frequency (RF) products. Nuvotronics develops accelerated innovation initiatives across the company’s technology portfolio with its award-winning PolyStrata® Technology, an innovative 3D microcoax architecture.

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