The Voice of Business, Industry & the Professions Since 1942
North Carolina's largest business group proudly serves as the state chamber of commerce


Regional Business Reports

Power plant electrifies city's tax base
Winston-Salem’s tax base got its biggest boost in 16 years with the announcement that Boston-based CME North American Merchant Energy LLC will build a $400 million natural gas-fired, electricity generating power station. The facility, which should be generating 800 megawatts of electricity as early as 2005, will be constructed on industrial property adjacent to the former Stroh’s Brewery on the southern edge of the city.

“Our community’s revitalization will occur through growth during these financially difficult times,” says Bob Leak Jr., president of Winston-Salem Business Inc, the city’s economic development arm. “The potential tax benefit from CME to Winston-Salem and Forsyth County will be significant, which will help our community tremendously.”

Environmental studies on the site already are under way, and pending completion of the permitting process, construction on the facility is scheduled to begin toward the end of 2003. Construction is expected to take 18 to 24 months and will employ approximately 350 at the site, generating an estimated $20 million in new wages and salaries for the county.

“Our goal is to provide a safe, reliable and environmentally responsible energy solution that benefits Winston-Salem and Forsyth County and provides valuable economic impact for the entire region,” says William J. Martin, president of CME North American Merchant Energy. “As the need for a stable supply of electricity increases, additional power generation becomes necessary to prevent California-like energy crises.”

Martin says CME chose Winston-Salem based on a number of factors, including proximity to natural gas and electricity transmission lines, ample water and sewer services, a prime industrial location and power marketing opportunities. The project is the largest single tax-base investment in the city since R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Cos. completed its $1 billion Tobaccoville plant in 1986.

“The impact of this project can only be positive for Winston-Salem and the surrounding communities,” Leak says. “Increasing the supply of locally produced, reliable and low-cost energy can also be used as a tool for attracting new businesses to Forsyth County, as well as a tool for retaining existing industries.”

CME estimates it will purchase about $4 million annually from local service and material suppliers. Once the station is operational, CME expects to employ 25 workers who will earn an average salary of $60,000.  — Kevin Brafford

$1 million grant giving industrial park a facelift
Reidsville’s industrial park will get a much-needed facelift as the result of a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce through the Economic Development Administration.

The money has been earmarked mainly for renovations to the infrastructure within the park. The improvements, which already are under way, include extending water mains, widening the main en-tranceway of Sands Road and extending sewer and storm drainage lines.

As part of the qualification for the grant, Reidsville is expected to match the grant with its own appropriation of $1 million for the project.

The grant was considered instrumental to helping the city maintain its economic development during difficult economic times. Reidsville officials say the improvements to the industrial park follow their longstanding motto, “focused on a better tomorrow.  — Rachel Suls

Cities hit a homer landing USA Baseball headquarters
The cities of Durham and Cary have teamed to land USA Baseball, the national governing body of the amateur sport, which will relocate its headquarters to the Triangle sometime early next year.

Currently based in Tucson, Ariz., USA Baseball selects and trains the USA Olympic Team, USA Baseball National Team (collegiate), the USA Baseball Junior National Team (18-under), and the USA Baseball Youth National Team (16-under), all of which participate in various international competitions each year.

Under the agreement, the organization will have executive and administrative offices and national team competition and training center facilities located in both cities. In Durham, USA Baseball will be based at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and will use that 10,000-seat facility for exhibition games. In Cary, the organization will be located at a new multi-field complex that will be built later this year. Included in the approximate $8 million complex will be four fields that USA Baseball will use for two to three months a year. The facility will be available for public use the remainder of the time.

Earlier this year, USA Baseball was dealing primarily with Durham as a potential relocation site. But after the city balked at building the organization a new training complex, the Triangle Sports Commission approached Cary about sharing headquarters responsibilities with Durham.

 “Having the Olympic governing body of America’s pastime in our hometown is a tremendous honor,” says Hill Carrow, who spearheaded the Triangle Sports Commission’s effort to land the organization. The Triangle was one of five finalists for USA Baseball. The others were Harford County, Md.; Osceola County, Fla.; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and Atlanta.

 “The decision process was made very difficult by the number of quality communities that reached out to us,” says Paul Seiler, the executive director and CEO of USA Baseball. “But after a long look at all of our options, we are extremely excited about the opportunities in North Carolina.”  — Kevin Brafford

Baptist convention answering CVB's prayers
The Gate City has landed the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006, exactly 90 years since its last North Carolina appearance in Charlotte in 1916.

The SBC, which has more than 15.9 million members from an estimated 41,000 churches, will bring between 10,000 and 15,000 visitors to Greensboro when the convention is held June 11-14, 2006. The economic impact on the area is expected to top out at more than $28.5 million.

The SBC says its choice to come to Greensboro was based largely on an impressive presentation put forth by the Greensboro Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, which will serve as the convention’s host site, and local hotels. 

Henri Fourrier, the president and CEO of the Greensboro Area CVB, says the SBC’s decision should have a positive impact on the city’s future as a convention site.

“It always lends credibility to your destination to have successfully hosted a convention of this magnitude,” he says. “We anticipate securing additional religious meetings for Greensboro simply because of our affiliation with the SBC.”

In addition to hosting the convention, Greensboro also will be the site of a program called the Crossover Evangelistic Effort, which is the Southern Baptist outreach program.

The program is held in connection with the convention each year in the host city with the goal of reaching out to area residents.  — Rachel Suls

Aquariums' ad campaign takes off like a rockett
A joint venture between the North Carolina Outdoor Advertising Association (NCOAA) and a Raleigh-based public relations agency has created an ad campaign that should positively impact the state’s tourism coffers — and at a cost that can’t be beat.

New billboards surfaced in June on a couple of heavily traveled roads in the eastern part of the state advertising the sea life at the North Carolina Aquariums. The campaign is the result of a pro bono project valued at more than $200,000 between the NCOAA and Rockett Burkhead & Winslow.

The NCOAA did its part by donating 15 to 20 billboard spaces worth more than $125,000. In response, Rockett Burkhead & Winslow created three separate designs for the billboards, which come in the wake of the reopening of the Aquarium at Fort Fisher. That expansion and renovation of Fort Fisher followed a similar project at the Aquarium on Roanoke Island. The third N.C. Aquarium, located at Pine Knoll Shores, is now in line for expansion.

“We’ve been working with the aquariums on a pro bono basis for almost two years,” says Paul Harrington, the managing creative director for Rockett Burkhead & Winslow. “Due to the state’s budget crunch, spending’s on hold. So we got a bit creative, did some fun billboards, and partnered with our friends at the N.C. Outdoor Advertising Association, who generously donated media space.

“Together, we were able to pull off a good campaign that will promote the aquariums and help the state with needed tourist dollars. It’s one of those rare instances where everyone wins.”

The billboards are located on Highway 64 in Plymouth and Highway 158 in Currituck County, as well as other highways through the coastal areas. Other billboards are expected to go up soon along major highways throughout the state.

“The travel and tourism industry is critical to the economic well-being of our state,” says Tony Adams, executive director of the NCOAA. “Through this wonderful partnership we hope to bring thousands of visitors to our three outstanding aquariums.” 

For more information on the North Carolina Aquariums and the North Carolina Aquarium Society, visit, or call 1-800-832-FISH.  — Kevin Brafford

Spate of redevelopment puts a new face on downtown
Downtown Hickory is a hub of activity these days with about $12 million being pumped into construction and renovation projects in the business district by private developers. Empty storefronts are being converted for new businesses as the area looks to re-establish itself as a place for living, dining and shopping.

As in many cities, Hickory’s downtown area has struggled to define itself after malls began drawing away shoppers in the 1960s.

“What has happened to downtown is that the merchants who established businesses there after World War II all retired, and what we see happening now is a whole new generation of business people moving into downtown,” says Hickory Economic Development Coordinator J.R. Steigerwald.

Steigerwald describes the progress as a partnership between the city and property owners. Last month the downtown area hired its first full-time director to oversee revitalization efforts and promote the area, courtesy of the city. That position should help the city when it applies this fall to be part of the state Main Street Program.

The city paved the way for much of what is going on today in 1997 when it made a move to clean up the perimeter of downtown by purchasing and demolishing a run-down motel and selling the lot. A couple of major projects are now under way in that area of town. The old Waldensian Bakery has been torn down to make way for a 20,000-square-foot office and retail building. Prism also is planning 17 townhomes on nearby property that once housed an auto parts store. In all, Prism’s projects will increase the city’s tax base by $5 million, according to Steigerwald.

The center city area known as Union Square also is receiving a facelift as developer Tim Cline renovates space formerly occupied by a large retail store into six upstairs apartments and several small shops downstairs. Another storefront is being converted into a children’s furniture store and a Greek restaurant has a contract on another. A 29,000-square-foot building, which once housed a local newspaper, is being renovated for office space. — Charlene H. Nelson

UNCC's high-tech dreams materialize as buildings rise
The city’s dreams of becoming a national leader in technology research are finally emerging from the dirt on the University of North Carolina at Charlotte campus as construction has begun on a new science and tech building.

Work on two additional new buildings will get under way later this year with all three scheduled for completion by 2004. The new construction will more than quadruple the school’s lab space for science and tech research, and represents the latest steps in the university’s aggressive attempts to become a powerhouse research institution. “We want to play with the big boys,” Steve Mosier, the university’s associate vice chancellor for research, told the Charlotte Observer.

To reach that goal, UNC Charlotte is building its Institute for Technology Innovation. The institute commands two separate parcels on campus and already includes the C.C. Cameron Applied Research Center and the Burson Building. The three new buildings will be part of that effort and will allow the tech faculty, now spread throughout the campus, to consolidate in one central area.

Under the university’s long-range plan, 13 more buildings eventually will be constructed along N.C. 29 within the institute’s boundaries on the northwest corner of campus. The three new buildings that will open in 2004 are being financed through part of the university’s share of the $3.1 billion bonds package that was spearheaded by NCCBI and approved by the state’s voters in 2000.

The institute also has a $10 million donation from the Duke Endowment, which it’s yet to determine how to use. — Kevin Brafford

New England firm snaps up former furniture plant
Across the Piedmont’s manufacturing landscape, production facilities that have been closed often sit abandoned for months or years.  But in Statesville, a New England cabinetmaker has gobbled up a manufacturing plant only a month after it closed, announcing plans to employ as many as 560 people there in the next five years.

LesCare Kitchens Inc., a division of Newman Consolidated Industries, will buy the former Falcon/Thonet furniture-making plant in west Statesville and convert it to a cabinetmaking plant. Falcon/Thonet employed 250 people in Statesville until it consolidated operations at other sites and moved out in February. The plant was on the market only a month.

“The timing was very unusual. Most of the time it takes months for a project like this to come together,” says Jeff McKay, director of economic development for the Greater Statesville Development Corp., who wishes all industrial buildings found new tenants to quickly. “In some sense it was a stroke of luck.”

LesCare Kitchens is one of the largest private cabinetmakers in the nation. It expects to employ 150 people in Statesville when it starts production in the fourth quarter. Investment in the plant is $6 million.

The plant will use high-tech engineering practices to produce wood cabinets, and McKay says Mitchell Community College will offer assistance in training workers.

LesCare Kitchens does not currently sell its product through Lowe’s Home Improvement stores, but Lowe’s satellite corporate headquarters relocating to nearby Mooresville may have helped draw LesCare to the region, McKay says. — Laura Williams-Tracy

Surge of business investments eases pain of textile job losses
The bad news is that Gaston County continues to bleed manufacturing jobs. The good news is that it also continues to be a leader in the state in announcements of new business investments during 2001.

The county racked up more than $644 million worth of announced investments in 2001, putting it third in the state. Only Mecklenburg and Person counties could brag of more, according to recently released N.C. Department of Commerce figures.

The biggest feather in Gaston’s cap is Atlanta-based Mirant Corp.’s $500 million merchant power plant to be built in Gastonia. The company announced the project in August 2001 but put plans on hold after the collapse of Enron, which made accessing capital markets an even greater challenge for power companies. While Gaston’s project was put on hold, a number of other planned Mirant projects were cancelled. The company is still pursuing regulatory permitting for the 1,200-megawatt plant.

Donnie Hicks, director of the Gaston County Economic Development Commission, says the county and city of Gastonia stand to benefit greatly from the Mirant plant by selling it huge amounts of water, and collecting significant franchise taxes from the natural gas the plant will buy. On a peak day, the plant will burn more gas that Public Service of North Carolina’s largest customer burns in a month, says Hicks.

Other economic development gains include the opening of a $33 million plant in Stanley by DSM Desotech, a maker of solvent-free fiber-optic cable coverings. The plan employs 45.

Also, chemical giant Clariant Corp. is completing a $50 million expansion to its Mount Holly plant. Cross Automation, which sells factory automation equipment, spent $5 million to expand its facility at the Oaks Commerce Center in Gastonia. And Buckeye Technologies Inc. opened a $100 million plant in Mount Holly for making absorbent materials put to use in such products as diapers and medical supplies. The company employs 175.

For all of the significant monetary investments Gaston attracted, the county still faces an uphill battle to replace the more than 4,700 manufacturing jobs lost in the last two years, half of them in textiles.

The county is looking at other industries to recruit that would be attracted to its amenities and compatible with the skills of its workforce. Those might be office development and back office operations, such as call centers. — Laura Williams-Tracy

Krispy Kreme expands into the land down under
Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. soon will be selling its signature sweets overseas. The company announced plans this summer to take its tasty product outside North America, awarding development rights for Australia and New Zealand.

Krispy Kreme, in its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in late May, outlined plans to explore international growth with the initial focus on five countries: Japan, South Korea, Australia, Spain and the United Kingdom. Company officials then said Krispy Kreme would sign at least two franchise agreements in the next year.

But it didn’t take anywhere near that long for the doughnut maker to announce its first choice. “This is an extremely exciting time for Krispy Kreme as we begin our expansion overseas,” says Scott Livengood, Krispy Kreme’s chairman, president and CEO. “We look forward to expanding the Krispy Kreme experience to new customers throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Krispy Kreme will partner with Borderless Australia Pty Ltd. Krispy Kreme Australia will develop 30 stores over the next five years throughout Australia and New Zealand.

The company, which now has stores in 34 states, made its first venture out of the United States last December with the opening of a new store in Toronto that was so successful that it set a franchise sales record for its first week.

“We have spent the past year investigating international opportunities,” Livengood says. “From those efforts, we identified a number of primary target markets which we believe have success characteristics similar to our newer markets in North America. We expect to announce additional international agreements this year.”

The company, which now has 226 stores, also has announced plans to award a Krispy Kreme franchise in Atlanta to home run king Hank Aaron. Under terms of the agreement, Aaron’s company, 755 Doughnut Corp., will operate a new store in the West End community. — Jim Buice

ASU looks to consolidate programs on 'Millenial Campus'
Appalachian State University’s education and research programs and its burgeoning regional economic development initiatives are expected to get a boost from a planned 2.3-acre “millennial campus.” Chancellor Francis T. Borkowkski says the project “will bring various educational and economic development initiatives together under one umbrella.”

Currently, that part of the ASU campus, which is located approximately a mile from Appalachian’s main campus,  contains the Division of Continuing Education, the Appalachian Regional Development Institute and the Appalachian Cultural museum. Plans for the millennial campus include it serving as a base for coordinating resources and needs of business, government and organizations that work with the university community.  It is also slated to help with the increased involvement of the 10 community college members of the Appalachian Learning Alliance. Much of the campus will focus on the university’s economic development and research activities. No new construction is needed.

The administrative and program coordinator for the project is Dr. Richard B. Parrott, currently the director of Appalachian’s Continuing Education Division. The millennial campus has been approved by the ASU Board of Trustees and is subject to approval by the UNC Board of Governors.   — Rachel Suls

Return to magazine index

Visit us at 225 Hillsborough Street, Suite 460, Raleigh, N.C.
Write to us at P.O. Box 2508, Raleigh, N.C. 27602
Call us at 919.836.1400 or fax us at 919.836.1425

Copyright © 1998, All Rights Reserved
Last Modified: December 20, 2002
Web Design By The
Let Us Help You With Your Web Site Needs!