3 April 2022
RALEIGH−North Carolina is already building beyond a blockbuster 2021 when it comes to economic development projects.
Since the calendar rolled over to 2022, the state has announced about $7 billion in capital investments from seven projects. In all of 2021 year about $10 billion in investment and 23,000 jobs were pledged.
Projects announced last week alone are estimated to bring a minimum of nearly 10,000 jobs to the state.
The 2022 list includes Tuesday’s announcement that Vietnamese automaker VinFast would construct a $4 billion automotive plant and electric battery assembly factory in Chatham County. That’s in addition to announcements earlier this year from Eli Lilly and Boom Supersonic.
And on Thursday, Macy’s Corporate Services said it will construct a 1.4 million-square-foot fulfillment center to better meet demand due to a growing number of online orders, after landing an incentives package worth a total of about $11 million from the state. The company plans to create nearly 2,800 jobs.
The VinFast project builds on the state’s “clean energy economy,” a term used by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in announcing the VinFast deal.
Unlocking clean energy potential
“North Carolina’s state leadership is wholly committed to unlocking the economic development potential of the clean energy economy, and yesterday’s announcement validates North Carolina as the location of choice for innovative mobility companies like VinFast,” said Christopher Chung, chief executive of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Eli Lilly said it would invest $1 billion to construct a new manufacturing facility in Concord, creating nearly 600 jobs, and Boom Supersonic said it would locate an aerospace manufacturing plant at Piedmont Triad Airport, investing $500 million and creating as many as 2,400 jobs, including at least 1,750 jobs at the site by 2030.
And more jobs could be coming.
Sources have told WRAL TechWire that despite one semiconductor firm dropping North Carolina from its list, other semiconductor firms are actively considering locating facilities in the state.
A Transformation of North Carolina’s Economy?
For the moment, however, the big headline-maker is VinFast.
“This is among the most transformative economic development opportunities in our state’s long history, and we are confident VinFast will have a major impact on North Carolina and its residents for decades to come,” Chung said.
Chung also called Toyota’s planned $1.29 billion electric battery plant in Randolph County a transformative project for the state in a December interview with WRAL TechWire.
Ryan Combs, the executive director of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, called the VinFast deal “monumental.”
And more investment from companies along the electric vehicle supply chain could be coming as well. According to Chung, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina commissioned a study about the supply chain for electric vehicles to prepare the state and its economic developers last year.
One example that the state could follow is what has occurred following the announcement of a Tesla factory in Reno, Nev., which Chung noted as an area that the state and its economic developers could consider reviewing in their ongoing research in a December 2021 interview.
Chung confirmed to WRAL TechWire in December that about a half-dozen projects related to electric vehicles were, at some point, under consideration during 2021.
2021 a ‘blockbuster year’
The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic brought with it disruptions to labor markets and the supply chain. But while 2020 was a year of uncertainty for many, 2021 was a blockbuster year for companies, Melissa Smith, vice president of business recruitment and development at EDPNC, said in the partnership’s annual report.
According to the report, the organization was involved in 174 business expansion, relocation, or site selection projects that combined are expected to create more than 23,000 new jobs with more than $10 billion in combined capital investment.
Those marks are all-time highs, EDPNC says.
“The pandemic forced companies to take a hard look at their supplier networks and business forecasts,” Smith said in the annual report. “As companies reassessed, uncertainty gave way to confidence for many.”
And, according to the report, as of the end of 2021, the state’s active pipeline of projects “represented the highest in potential capital investment on record.”
EDPNC’s data showed that as of the end of 2021, there were 191 potential projects that could create more than 72,000 jobs with nearly $39.3 billion in potential capital investments.
Behind the numbers
Of the 174 projects announced, 124 of them were in manufacturing or assembly, by far the largest industry category. There were 13 warehouse or distribution projects, 12 service or sales projects, 11 corporate headquarters and 14 other projects announced, according to the report.
But it was four megaprojects that really fueled the record-setting capital investment figures from the 2021 calendar year, according to EDPNC. Those megaprojects were:
Then, there are other project wins highlighted within the EDPNC annual report, including the $553.5 million Amgen project in Holly Springs, the $139 million project from Kroger Co. in Cabarrus County, a $100 million project from Amazon in Johnston County, a $213 million project from Abzena in Lee County, the $154 million project from Thermo Fisher Scientific in Pitt County, and the $114.6 million project from Invitae Corp. in Wake County.
“Our banner year is a testament to the fundamental advantages of North Carolina as a place to do business, despite a global pandemic,” Smith said. “An employer’s decision to locate and grow here is a validation of our state’s workforce and business environment as one of the nation’s best. Businesses know that North Carolina is a place where they can thrive.”