North Carolina: Building On A Blockbuster Year

Across the Tar Heel State, businesses are finding strategic locations for their operations.

By Anne Cosgrove
From the July/August 2023 Issue

North Carolina’s business climate has been recognized by multiple outlets over the past year, including as Business Facilities2022 State of the Year. A regional economic development strategy developed and honed in recent years propelled the Tar Heel State—with 2022 a 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 startups.

Investments from Boom Supersonic, which will manufacture its new Overture supersonic passenger aircraft at the Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTI), and Wolfspeed, a Durham, NC-based semiconductor manufacturer, were among the banner projects announced in 2022. The state continues to attract relocation and expansion investment into 2023, across a diverse scope of industries. And, tech-focused firms remain a significant contributor to that activity.

North Carolina’s business climate
North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh in Wake County is part of the world-renowned Research Triangle Region. (Photo: Adobe Stock/Sean Pavone Photo)


Fiber Optics Expanding Reach

In March, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Alan Davidson traveled to Hickory, NC in Catawba County to celebrate the announcement of new fiber optic cable production in the U.S. made possible by the Administration’s Internet for All Initiative. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires the use of Made-in-America materials and products for federally funded infrastructure projects including high-speed Internet deployment in America.

Two key manufacturers there announced new investments and partnerships in March—CommScope and Corning Incorporated are investing a combined nearly $550 million to build the fiber optic cables that will help close the digital divide.

“We have a tremendous opportunity not just to close the digital divide for millions of Americans, but also to revitalize domestic manufacturing industry, make more products and technologies in America, and create good manufacturing jobs here in Hickory and across the country,” said Secretary Raimondo at the event.

North Carolina’s business climate
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo visits the CommScope plant in Catawba County in March 2023. Both CommScope and Corning Incorporated announced increased investment into fiber optic production there. (Photo: U.S. Dept. of Commerce)


CommScope announced an additional $47 million investment towards expanding its U.S. fiber optic cable manufacturing, including its facility in Catawba, which is the largest hybrid-fiber-coaxial facility for broadband networks in the world. According to CommScope, this facility will produce a new rural fiber optic cable that is specifically designed for rural areas.

Corning announced the expansion of its U.S. manufacturing capacity with the opening of its manufacturing campus near Hickory. The company has also formed a partnership with NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association to dedicate a portion of the cable manufactured at its facility to small, rural providers and co-ops.

Rural Communities Support

We’ve been making transformational investments in infrastructure across rural North Carolina, including high speed internet and water systems and these grants will help existing rural businesses while attracting new companies to our rural areas.”

— Gov. Cooper

The North Carolina Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) recently approved 11 grant requests to local governments of more than $4 million, Governor Roy Cooper announced. The requests include commitments to create a total of 383 jobs, 173 of which were previously announced. The public investment in these projects will attract more than $91 million in private investment.

“We’ve been making transformational investments in infrastructure across rural North Carolina, including high speed internet and water systems and these grants will help existing rural businesses while attracting new companies to our rural areas,” said Gov. Cooper.

The RIA is supported by the rural economic development team at the North Carolina Department of Commerce. RIA members review and approve funding requests from local communities. Funding comes from a variety of specialized grant and loan programs offered and managed by N.C. Commerce’s Rural Economic Development Division. Grants support activities such as infrastructure development, building renovation, expansion and demolition, and site improvements.

“Each investment made in a rural community benefits the entire state,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “[These] newest infrastructure improvements will stimulate growth while enhancing the economic competitiveness, opportunities, and resilience that rural North Carolina needs to succeed.”

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The RIA approved eight grant requests under the state’s Building Reuse Program in two categories: Vacant Building and Existing Business Building. An instance of a grant under the existing business building is in Lenoir County, where a $500,000 grant will support renovation of a building in Kinston. The building is occupied by West Pharmaceutical Services, Inc., manufacturer of contaminant solutions that employs over 8,300 worldwide. This project is expected to create 72 jobs, with an investment of $73.5 million by the company.

Other programs under RIA to support rural economic development are the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) and the Industrial Development Fund – Utility Account (IDF) program. The CDBG funds provide grants to local governments for creating and retaining jobs. Funding is based on jobs to be created and level of economic distress of the community. The IDF provides grants to local governments located in the 80 most economically distressed counties. Funds may be used for publicly-owned infrastructure projects reasonably expected to result in job creation.


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