Exercise enthusiasts in Lee County know how vital it is to strengthen the muscles in the core part of your body. That same tenet applies equally well to North Carolina — how important it is to have your state’s core strong.

The Carolina Core is strong and growing stronger. It is a region in central North Carolina along a 120-mile section of U.S. Highway 421, from I-77 to I-95. Our largest cities are Greensboro, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, High Point, Burlington, Sanford, Thomasville, Asheboro, Kernersville, Clemmons, Lexington, and Pinehurst.

The region is defined by assets that make it a globally-competitive market, including: a population of 2.4 million people with a smart and growing talent pool; access to 30+ colleges and universities with 250,000 students; multiple airports and an extensive road network; four megasites with more than 7,500 acres; and impressive industrial and urban research parks.

Since 2018, the Carolina Core has been proving over and over that indeed we our state’s third economic engine, along with our adjacent neighbors in the Raleigh-Durham area and in metro Charlotte.

In December 2021, the largest private investment in state history was announced in the Carolina Core. Toyota Motor North America announced an impressive Phase 1 — spending $1.29 billion to build an automotive electric battery plant at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, where it will create 1,750 jobs.

The Carolina Core’s three other megasites — Triangle Innovation Point in Moncure, the Chatham-Siler City Advanced Manufacturing Site, and the Piedmont Triad International Airport megasite just outside Greensboro — are getting significant attention and are also primed for large transformative projects.

Recent announcements have come from all across the Carolina Core. In addition to the Toyota automotive battery project in Randolph County, examples of economic development Core strength in 2021 include:

• Abzena in Sanford, which will invest $213 million and create 325 jobs at a biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility;

• Cambrex in High Point, which announced a $30 million expansion and the addition of 78 jobs at its biopharmaceutical manufacturing facility;

• Nature’s Value in Winston-Salem, which will create 183 jobs and invest $19 million at its new headquarters/vitamin manufacturing facility;

• Syngenta in Greensboro, which will invest $68 million in its agrichemical facility and retain 750 high-paying jobs;

• LT Apparel in Greensboro, which will create 116 jobs at a new distribution facility;

• Lotus Bakeries in Alamance County, which added 90 jobs with a $62 million investment in its manufacturing facility;

• Precision Textiles in Troy, which will create 100 jobs; and

• DC Blox in High Point, which will build a $305 million data center.

When the Carolina Core branding initiative was announced in August of 2018, the Piedmont Triad Partnership proclaimed that one of the measures of success would be to create at least 50,000 jobs in the Carolina Core in 20 years. Since that declaration, companies’ confidence in our region — along with the work of our economic developers and allies — has led to more than 22,600 announced jobs in the Carolina Core.

The work of the impressive staff at the Sanford Area Growth Alliance has contributed to that job-creation goal in a big way.

As 2022 begins, we have attained more than 45% of the goal in just 15% of the time. Clearly the Carolina Core is well on its way to surpassing that 50,000-job goal. That Core strength and continued economic development growth will continue to serve our residents and our state well.

Michael S. Fox is president of the Piedmont Triad Partnership.

Michael S. Fox is president of the Piedmont Triad Partnership.

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