North Carolina: One-Stop Shop For Food Industry

When it comes to the entire food chain—from agriculture to agribusiness to food and beverage manufacturing—North Carolina is second to none.

By the BF Staff
From the January/February 2021 Issue

Food processing facilities are flocking to North Carolina thanks to its thriving, diverse agricultural economy and acclaimed food science resources. These numbers tell the story:

  • North Carolina’s agriculture and agribusinesses account for $87 billion of the state’s annual GDP and 17 percent of all NC jobs
  • North Carolina is home to over 1,000 food and beverage manufacturing operations and 24 of the 50 largest food and beverage companies in the U.S.

    North Carolina Food Industry
    The North Carolina Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL) in Kannapolis conducts research aimed at expanding the variety of plant-based foods. The NCFIL brings together expert food scientists and partners from around the state. (Photo: Rowan EDC)


The Agricultural and Food Technology industries have been undergoing tremendous change due to trends such as changing consumer habits, food safety and security, population crisis, proliferation of niche brands, and an aging population with healthier diets.

As companies in this industry sector look to adapt to these trends by spending billions on research, new product development and supply chain optimization, more are looking at North Carolina’s Rowan County as a location for their investments.

Supported by a wealth of resources in the area, Rowan County and the Charlotte region are transforming into a specialized and world renowned research, development and production center for food production and the biosciences.

Companies like Cheerwine, the manufacturer of the effervescent cherry soft drink that has been an icon of Southern food and culture for more than a century, and newer ones like Carolina Malt House, that provide high quality, locally sourced grains to Southeastern breweries, are two examples of food companies that are flourishing in Rowan County.

Other food processors include Freshouse, Rockwell Farms, Frierich Foods and Patterson Farms. Many are drawn to the area to be near the headquarters of Salisbury-based Food Lion, the grocer that operates more than 1,000 stores in ten southeastern and mid-Atlantic states and is owned by Ahold Delhaize, the world-leading food retailer based in the Netherlands.

“We are proud of the continued growth of our county’s agbiosciences sector, and the potential it holds to provide a stronger economy for our area,” said Rowan EDC President Rod Crider. “We have a strong agricultural heritage and new resources in place to help us build a brighter future. Our strategic location, growing labor pool and logistical advantages make it easy to see why more companies are choosing to locate in Rowan County.”

One of the most valuable resources available to food processors is the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab (NCFIL) in Kannapolis. The NCFIL is a new, current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) pilot plan accelerating plant-based food research, ideation, development and commercialization.

NCFIL brings together the latest in food processing equipment, expert food scientists and partners from across the state to help food companies and entrepreneurs get their products to market quickly and effectively. Managed by NC State University and located in the NC Research Campus, the NCFIL offers services for every stage of product development, including the following: Product Research and Development, Pilot Plant Production, Training and Workshops and Food Industry Consulting.

Another major asset for food processing in Rowan County is its great water resources. Rowan County is especially rich in the water resources required of food processors thanks to its location on the Yadkin River that generates an average daily flow of 2 billion gallons per day (GDP). Maximum daily capacity is 18 million GPD.

Rowan County is situated in the heart of the eastern U.S., one of the largest and fastest-growing consumer markets in the nation. Its abundance of transportation options provide superior logistics as well as supply-chain flexibility.

Highway access is the greatest transportation asset with same day access to all Eastern U.S. markets via three interstates—I-85, I-77 and I-40. Rowan County is just 45 minutes from two major international airports and home to the general aviation Mid-Carolina Regional Airport. An intermodal facility is located in nearby Charlotte and other shipping and rail options are easily accessible.

Rowan County has access to a 1.4 million person labor force—one of the largest pools of potential workers in the U.S. Southeast. It’s large because Rowan County is situated between North Carolina’s Charlotte region and the Piedmont Triad region—two of the fastest growing population centers in the U.S. This continuing influx of talented professionals to the region provides businesses and companies access to a robust pool of highly skilled and educated workforce.

For companies that are looking to relocate in the Charlotte metro area, Rowan County offers a number of business cost advantages, including low-cost electricity, lower construction costs, competitive labor costs and a low cost of living.


Companies are flocking to Reidsville, NC, and with good reason.

Reidsville’s local government has worked diligently to provide an ideal environment for businesses looking to relocate to the state. Most recently, as many Americans rethought their commute and quality of life amidst the pandemic, smaller cities, like Reidsville, had an opportunity to capitalize on the things that make them such unique places to live and work. Qualities such as affordability, schools, safety and less hustle and bustle than the big cities. These characteristics, along with a host of benefits for businesses such as trained workforce, site affordability and lower property tax valuations and utility costs, have made Reidsville an ideal place to relocate, for both individuals and businesses.

Strategically located in the center of the state, Reidsville is close to top universities, airports and major interstates that connect it to urban cities like Greensboro, Raleigh, Danville and Winston Salem. In recent years the area has become highly attractive to the food processing industry due to its abundance of municipal water and wastewater capacity. Reidsville boasts two municipal lakes and a history of being able to deliver on the needs of food processors such as Dorada Foods, which has been in Reidsville for over 40 years.

Additional benefits for companies in Reidsville include land at Class A Industrial Park; Rural Ready sites at low or no cost; an available, skilled workforce; rail-served sites; robust incentives; and affordable housing options.

The City of Reidsville, NC has built a community that is willing and able to help support large companies and provide the quality of life employees are looking for. Reidsville’s transportation infrastructure includes the Interstate 785 conversion from US 29 and improved Freeway Drive and Hwy 158 for local connectivity and ease of transportation.

Reidsville offers abundant and inexpensive water/sewer capacity, and low and reliable energy cost.

Reidsville offers business-friendly regulations; support staff with efficient procedures and no red tape or bureaucracy; and an expedited permit/site plan/building inspection process that gets businesses up and running quickly.

Workforce development in Reidsville includes partnerships with community college and high schools to train youth in sought-after skills such as manual machining; a quarter-cent sales tax referendum supporting community college industrial training center; and Rock-A-Top apprenticeship and Educator Externship programs.

Reidsville’s attractive quality of life includes two large lakes boasting a host of outdoor recreation options and an active downtown offering year-round events. Take a closer look at Reidsville and find out why so many businesses are choosing to “Rock it in Reidsville”!

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