Economic development projects represent opportunity, challenges for state of North Carolina

GREENSBORO, N.C. — If there’s a recession here, or on the horizon, you wouldn’t know it from the number of business expansions and locations in the state of North Carolina, long considered the heart of the furniture industry.

According to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, there are 235 active projects in the state with an estimated $111.8 billion in capital investment, not to mention as many as 110,000 new jobs.

Many of these were projects announced in the past year or so, which resulted in North Carolina receiving Business Facilities magazine’s State of the Year for 2022 based on project announcements, capital investment and job creation. It also was the second time since the launch of the awards in 2007 that the state has received this honor, the last time being in 2020.

Editorial Director Anne Cosgrove said the magazine recognized the state based on its world-class education and R&D resources along with the support of incentives and other programs aimed at attracting major projects.

Below are several of the state’s top economic development projects:

+ Vietnamese electric vehicle and battery manufacturer VinFast which is bringing the state its first automotive manufacturing plant to Chatham County. Representing an investment of $4 billion, this project will create 7,500 new jobs over time.

Le Thi Thu Thuy, Vingroup vice chair and VinFast global CEO, speaks at an event announcing the company’s new plant in North Carolina last March.

+ Semiconductor manufacturer Wolfspeed also announced in 2022 that it was building a new semiconductor plant in Siler City. The estimated $5 billion investment will create 1,800 new jobs

+ Supersonic airliner manufacturer Boom Supersonic plans a $500 million Overture airline manufacturing and final assembly plant in Greensboro. It is expected to create 1,750 jobs by 2030.

+ Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly plans to build a new plant in Concord. The $1 billion investment will create 600 jobs.

These are just a few that made big headlines around the state because of their size and economic impact. But there are many others that are also adding jobs and revenues in the state. These range from plastics manufacturer Premix Group’s plans to invest $47 million for its first North Carolina plant to pharmaceutical industry supplier Catalent’s proposed investment of $40 million in an expansion planned over the next five years.

Indeed, manufacturing remains one of the most important segments of the state’s economy. A study by business credit resource Capital on Tap said that in the second quarter of 2022 alone, it was the largest sector in the state’s economy, producing $110.4 billion in GDP, followed by real estate and rental/leasing at $78.4 billion, and state and local governments, which contributed nearly $65 billion to the state’s economy.

The strength of the state’s manufacturing base is no surprise given its diverse economic base, which still includes furniture. In fact North Carolina furniture manufacturing often made headlines throughout the pandemic because of the nearly unprecedented spike in demand for residential home furnishings. This was obviously a boost to an industry that had seen its fair share of job losses to China and other Asian manufacturers over the past 20 years — for the first time in years, some manufacturers saw themselves expanding because of the demand, which in turn created challenges of its own due to competition for workers in and outside the industry.

Despite a looming and prolonged recession, it appears those challenges could remain for North Carolina furniture manufacturers, particularly because of the number of projects on the horizon.

So while the expansion is obviously good news for the state’s economy, the furniture industry could be hard pressed to find new workers not to mention retain many of the good workers they have invested time and money to retain in recent years. The last thing they want it to lose that talent to other industries that are offering incentives like higher pay and new and cleaner working environments.

But it’s obviously not a lost cause if manufacturers do the right things and take the right approach to making their people happy coming to work each day.

The National Association of Manufacturers recently offered some insights in this area. Citing research from the Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research and the American Psychological Association it noted the following:

The top reasons manufacturing employees decided to stay with their current employer included 1) enjoying the work they do (83%); having job stability and security (79%); working for an employer with a family-oriented culture (69%); and the job being compatible with other life demands (68%).

Other factors included training and career opportunities, with two-thirds (69% and 65% respectively) of those under age 25 citing these as reasons they wanted to stay with their current employer.

In addition, the report said that employees also want to feel involved and understand how their efforts are linked to the company’s overall success as well as formal employee development and training programs, well-defined career paths, cross-training opportunities and comprehensive employee recognition.

And of course competitive pay and benefits were another important factor in employee satisfaction.

A link to the full report can be found here.

Obviously many industry employers are already taking steps in these and other areas in an effort to keep workers happy and create a positive work environment that makes them an employer of choice in and outside their regions.

But competition always creates opportunities to step up one’s game, or at least take an honest look at themselves in the mirror. The question isn’t just for North Carolina companies, but for companies everywhere seeing increasing competition in their backyards. A recession may be looming, but so are opportunities workers have to seek greener pastures.

What are you doing to be the employer of choice in your community? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section or send me a note at We would love to hear your thoughts.

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at and at 336-508-4616.

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