By Anne Cosgrove
From the January/February 2023 Issue
North Carolina is Business Facilities’ 2022 State of the Year, marking the second time the state has earned this recognition, which has been bestowed annually by the magazine since 2007.
A succinct regional economic development strategy, developed and honed in recent years, has propelled the Tar Heel State—with 2022 another banner year for capital investment and jobs creation. Paired with world-class education and R&D resources, the creation and implementation of incentives and programs from organizations at all levels across the state are meeting companies of all shapes and sizes “where they are” to ensure they find the right location for their relocation, expansion, and even startup venture. Add to that the ability of state level organizations like North Carolina Department of Commerce (NC Commerce) and the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) to recognize what businesses across a variety of industries are looking for in the post-pandemic economy and you have an equation that adds up to the state as our choice for top recognition this year.
This rise to the top was reflected in Business Facilities’ 2022 State Rankings Report published last summer. North Carolina topped the list for Best Business Climate, and also ranked in the Top 5 for Tech Talent Pipeline and Foreign Direct Investment/Capital Investment.
Bipartisan efforts in North Carolina toward fostering a business-friendly environment for a diversity of industries made a strong showing over the past year where a steady stream of relocation and expansions were announced across the state. New investment from economic development projects in 2022 totaled $19.3 billion, representing a significant increase compared to $10.1 billion of new investment in 2021.
Job creation has accompanied these investments. In December, Governor Roy Cooper’s office announced 28,300 new jobs in 2022—setting a new record for the state. Last year, the top five project announcements for job creation were Vinfast in Chatham County (7,500), Macy’s in Rowan County (2,800), Wolfspeed in Chatham County (1,800), Boom Supersonic in Greensboro (1,760), and Eli Lilly and Company in Concord (close to 600).
The largest economic development announcement in North Carolina’s history (by capital investment) and biggest in 2022 (for job creation) is a good benchmark for measuring what’s gone right with the Tar Heel State’s business attraction and retention strategies. In March 2022, VinFast selected Chatham County, North Carolina to locate its first North American automotive assembly and battery manufacturing plant. The Hanoi, Vietnam-based auto manufacturer plans to create 7,500 jobs and invest up to $2 billion in phase one of its project, located at the Triangle Innovation Point (TIP) megasite in Chatham County.
Another significant milestone: VinFast is the first car manufacturer ever to locate in the state. “North Carolina is quickly becoming the center of our country’s emerging, clean energy economy,” said Governor Roy Cooper at the announcement. “VinFast’s transformative project will bring many good jobs to our state, along with a healthier environment as more electric vehicles take to the road to help us reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Advanced Manufacturing Drawn To The State
Other banner projects in 2022 were Boom Supersonic in Greensboro, announced in January, and Wolfspeed outside Siler City, in September.
Boom Supersonic will manufacture its new Overture supersonic passenger aircraft at the Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI). Through 2030, the Overture Superfactory campus at PTI will bring an investment of more than $500 million and create 1,761 jobs. Boom Supersonic is developing a sustainable, supersonic aircraft capable of speeds twice as fast as today’s commercial airliners. The company plans to have Overture ready to enter service in 2029.
The initial phase of the project at PTI involves the development of a production hangar fronting the south side of Interstate 73 where Boom will manufacture the aircraft. An additional production facility will be added as demand requires.
PTI faced heavy competition for the Boom Supersonic project from multiple airports. The North Carolina legislature approved $106.7 million for improvements at PTI to help secure the aerospace manufacturer. The state has also approved an $87.3 million Jobs Development Investment Grant (JDIG) for the company, which will receive the grant funding if it meets employment and investment goals set out by the state. Under the terms of the grant, the company will invest $500 million by 2030.
Founded in Durham, NC and with global sites today, semiconductor maker Wolfspeed, Inc. chose its home state for its multi-billion-dollar materials manufacturing facility. Slated for 445 acres in the Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site in Chatham County, the investment is targeted to generate a more than ten-fold to current Silicon Carbide production capacity in Durham. Over the next eight years, job creation is expected to reach 1,800.
Said Gregg Lowe, President and CEO of Wolfspeed. “Demand for our products continues to grow at a rapid pace, and the industry continues to be supply constrained. Expanding our materials production will further our market leadership and allow us to better serve the growing needs of our customers. We are particularly excited and proud to not only expand Wolfspeed’s footprint in our home state of North Carolina, but also further our relationship with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University to nurture our best-in-class talent pool.”
Phase one construction is anticipated to be completed in 2024 and cost approximately $1.3 billion. Between 2024 and the end of the decade, the company will add additional capacity as needed, eventually occupying more than one million square feet. The facility will primarily produce 200mm Silicon Carbide wafers, which will be used to supply Wolfspeed’s Mohawk Valley Fab, which opened in 2022.
“Wolfspeed’s decision further validates North Carolina as the epicenter of clean energy,” said Gov. Cooper. “This is another milestone in our drive toward a clean energy economy as it will boost electric vehicle manufacturing and offshore wind while fighting climate change and putting money in the pockets of every day North Carolinians with great paying jobs.”
The company’s talent development strategy is complemented by its continued partnership with North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (N.C. A&T). In 2020, Wolfspeed committed $4 million over five years to the HBCU, at the time the single largest donation in the university’s history, to create the Wolfspeed Endowed Scholars Program. The two entities aim to establish comprehensive education and training curricula and cutting-edge research and innovation programs. This partnership will open opportunities for undergraduate and graduate credentials in Silicon Carbide semiconductor manufacturing, as well as training and career advancement programs for existing semiconductor manufacturing workers.
“North Carolina A&T is proud to partner with Wolfspeed to provide new opportunities to pursue the next generation of careers in the green economy, drive innovation and explore new possibilities,” said N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold L. Martin, Sr. “Throughout our rich history as a doctoral, land-grant university and the largest historically Black university in the country, we have believed in the power of our students to change the world. Our expanded partnership with Wolfspeed will allow us to change the world together, and I am incredibly excited for what is to come.”
Check out all the latest news related to North Carolina economic development, corporate relocation, corporate expansion and site selection.
The dynamic nature of site selection and economic development over the last year spurred Business Facilities’ editors to recognize five states as regional runners-up in the 2022 State of the Year lineup. Business costs and workforce availability continue to lead decision-making for companies. Still, as the factors for site selection evolve and expand we wanted to highlight states that are showing strong progress in their regions. The regional recipients for 2022 activity are: New York (Northeast); Florida (Southeast); Ohio (Midwest); Texas (Southwest); and Arizona (West).
Northeast: New York
New York is recognized for Clean Energy Programs. Growing the green economy through clean energy initiatives is capturing attention for the Empire State. A significant action in August 2022 was the passing of Green CHIPS legislation aimed at maintaining environmental protections while making New York a hub for semiconductors. In early 2022, Governor Kathy Hochul announced plans for a $500 million, nation-leading investment in offshore wind, expected to deliver 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035. Solar energy initiatives are aiding the goal of the state obtaining 70% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Last October, when Micron Technology announced plans to invest $100 billion into semiconductor fabrication facilities in the state the company noted the availability of clean, reliable power as key. Said Empire State Development, the state’s economic development organization: “New York State is building for the 21st century and beyond, investing in projects and programs that promote clean and renewable energy like hydrogen and offshore wind. Through our Green CHIPS program, we are growing the semiconductor industry with an enhanced focus on sustainability and reducing emissions. New York is focused on building upon its role as a green energy leader and creating more opportunities for growth, investment, and success.”
Florida is recognized for Population and Workforce Growth. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Sunshine State is the fastest growing state for population, with an increase of 1.9% between 2021 and 2022. Florida’s labor force grew by 352,000, or 3.4%, over the year in November 2022, more than double the national rate. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, companies of all sizes have moved to the state, including real estate investment group Blackstone, global investment bank Goldman Sachs, and autonomous vehicle tech firm Argo AI. Florida’s defense industry is a critical economic driver with more than 860,000 direct and indirect jobs. In June 2022, Governor Ron DeSantis signed six bills to support veterans, military members, and their families in finding employment and educational opportunities. Business creation is benefitting from this influx with data indicating that Florida has led the country in new business formations with over 1.7 million created since January 2020 and that over one-third of those were launched in 2022.
Ohio is recognized for Focus on Innovation. Economic development organizations across this state are focused on high-growth sectors, which includes turning attention to building entrepreneurial ecosystems and amplifying innovation hubs. With significant investment from the state in place, over the next decade Innovation Districts are intended to create 60,000 new jobs, 47,500 STEM certifications and degrees, and to generate an estimated $9 billion annual economic impact. JobsOhio, together with the state of Ohio and partners, have invested in three world-class Innovation Districts in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus. In early 2022, Intel announced its plans for an initial investment of more than $20 billion to build two chip factories outside Columbus. Said, J.P. Nauseef, President and CEO, JobsOhio, “In the decathlon of economic development, Ohio shattered records in nearly every event despite global headwinds. From the largest private investment in state history (Intel’s $20B Silicon Heartland) to record FDI megaprojects (Honda/LG and SEMCORP) to major wins across aerospace, automotive, healthcare, biotech, agriculture and more, Ohio welcomed $31.2B in CAPEX to its diverse and vibrant business community.”
Texas is recognized for Leading Exports. In June 2022, the state’s top exports included traditional industries, such as oil and gas/petroleum products and basic chemicals/resin, rubber, and fibers. The list was also led by tech-related products, including semiconductors/computer equipment and aerospace products—a trend that’s been growing as the state’s economy diversifies. During just the first half of 2022, Texas exported $195 billion in goods. Texas has 29 official ports of entry that serve as critical gateways to global trade. Announced in July 2022 was a $68 million channel improvement project at the Port of Brownsville along Gulf of Mexico, named the Brazos Island Harbor (BIH) Channel Improvement Project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Congress have authorized the deepening of the port’s channel from 42 feet to 52 feet. The project may cost upwards of $300 million and construction, divided into two phases, and was expected to commence at the end of 2022.
Arizona is recognized for Leading Manufacturing Employment. November 2022 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the state ranked first for year over year job growth (8.32%), with more than 15,000 manufacturing jobs added through November. Arizona also ranks among the top three states for the fastest jobs recovery in manufacturing, adding more than 17,000 jobs since the pre-pandemic peak. With significant announcements in 2022 from semiconductor makers, bioscience, and other high-growth industries, manufacturing job gains can be expected to continue to soar. Meanwhile, Drive48, a collaboration established in 2021 by government, industry, and academia to bolster workforce training for high-tech manufacturing, has been allocated $30 million from the state to build six additional advanced manufacturing training centers. Sandra Watson, President and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, said “With mega announcements in semiconductor, battery, and electric vehicle industries creating thousands of jobs, 2022 represented another transformational year for Arizona’s economy. Arizona has become a global leader for advanced manufacturing operations and leads the U.S. in manufacturing jobs growth. We’re excited to build on these wins in the year ahead!”