North Carolina’s Triad Region Courts Advanced Manufacturing Boom

North Carolina Triad Tries to Reinvent Its Economy

Revitalizing North Carolina’s Triad Economy

The once flourishing furniture and textile hub of Liberty, North Carolina, is on the cusp of change. The town manager, Scott Kidd, found himself in a whirlwind of activity when Toyota announced it was building a seven-million-square-foot battery factory in the rural area. This investment signifies a significant shift in the economic trajectory of North Carolina’s Triad region.

From Lagging to Leading

The Triad region, which includes Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and High Point, has historically lagged in terms of economic growth. However, this new Toyota plant, which promises jobs with an hourly wage above the average income of $47,000 in Randolph County, could breathe new life into the region. The catch? The local workforce needs the skills for these new jobs. Mr. Kidd expressed concerns about many local workers lacking the necessary education and skills to work at the plant.

Preserving Local Character

While the new industries are welcomed, there are concerns about maintaining the area’s character. As Marvin Price, executive vice president of economic development at the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, said, they aspire to be the best version of Greensboro, not another Charlotte. Therefore, the Triad aims to attract advanced manufacturing and clean technology businesses, providing a potential blueprint for other regions.

Investment Incentives and Opportunities

North Carolina has leveraged federal and state incentives to attract these businesses. For example, Toyota has been awarded almost $500 million in incentives and tax breaks from the state, while federal legislation such as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the CHIPS Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act have also encouraged investment.

Reinventing the Triad’s Economy

This reinvention could be a game-changer for the Triad, once a manufacturing powerhouse centered on tobacco, textiles, and furniture. However, the region has seen a decline since the 1970s. Now, the Triad is seizing the opportunity to diversify its economy, moving towards advanced manufacturing and clean energy.

Workforce Development: A Key Factor

However, significant challenges remain, such as preparing the workforce for the new jobs. To tackle this, programs are being set up to provide the necessary skills. Guilford Technical Community College, for example, offers apprenticeships that allow students to work while earning an associate degree.

Affordability: An Attractive Feature

The Triad’s affordability also makes it attractive for companies and workers, with the average home valuation in the Triad’s three main cities being $250,000, significantly lower than the state and national average. Nevertheless, the region needs to balance this growth while maintaining its charm and affordability.

The Challenges Ahead

Despite the promising developments, the transition may be challenging for some, especially in more rural parts like Liberty. Primary education remains underfunded, and literacy levels are lower than the state average. Therefore, while the Toyota plant could improve the town’s fortunes, it will take more than that to uplift the community fully.

In summary, the investment by companies like Toyota marks a significant shift in North Carolina’s Triad region, offering promising economic prospects. However, to seize these opportunities fully, the region must address significant challenges, particularly in education and workforce development.