As the U.S. economy continues to improve, North Carolina’s Eastern Region is drawing attention for its many amenities, especially among national and international companies looking for the next best place to invest. The 13-county region offers competitive assets, including a robust transportation grid, a well-trained workforce, economic development incentives and much more. Its business base is made up of regional, national and international firms, allowing it to continually draw a variety of industry sectors. And by working with new and existing firms, the area is on pace to continue its strong pattern of growth, says John Chaffee, President and CEO of North Carolina’s Eastern Region.
Central Location for Commerce
“We have a lot of natural elements that work in our favor,” Chaffee says. “Our strategic location on the East Coast puts us halfway between Boston and Miami, and we straddle both Interstate 95 for north-south traffic as well as I-40 for east-west commerce. We are also adjacent to the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle, and several world renowned public and private universities."
The Eastern Region is also one of the friendliest areas in a state known for its pro-business practices. North Carolina ranks near the top of national lists for business climate, and the region has some of the lowest local tax burdens in the state. “We’ve got a AAA bond rating, and we’re also a right-to-work state, so our unionization rate is one of the lowest in the country,” Chaffee says.
The area’s manufacturing heritage has generated a deep pool of talent for employers, and area educational institutions turn out a constant stream of graduate-level workers. For companies that need a blend of both, there are multiple training programs that can be tailored to meet their needs. “Our workforce development boards and community colleges are focused on developing the workforce as it relates to all our businesses," Chaffee says. "And our public school systems are working in that area as well, so we have a steady pipeline of locally trained workers to draw from."
Industries on the Rise
In addition to shoring up existing industry sectors like defense, value-added agriculture and tourism, the Eastern Region is focusing on tapping into new economic opportunities anchored by emerging industries, such as life sciences and advanced manufacturing – both of which fit well with the region.
“Advanced manufacturing relies deeply on automation and robotics, and we are really helping define that market segment,” Chaffee says. “It has grown even during the recession, particularly in the aerospace and life sciences sectors. We see that as key to our continued leadership in aerospace, health care and biopharmaceuticals.” As the breadbasket of North Carolina, the Eastern Region has fortified its farming roots with value-added agricultural businesses, such as food processing companies that partner with local growers. Ahead, regional leaders see potential growth in renewable energy segments such as woody biomass and liquid biofuels, both of which would rely heavily on the area’s agricultural expertise for research and development.
“We are very fortunate that we have been able to identify our strengths and market those to multiple industries,” Chaffee says. “We have significant assets, and we are getting a lot of traction as people see why we are a good fit for their businesses.”