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What to know about the Carolina Core brand and how Winston-Salem benefits

The name for the 120-mile corridor is bringing big business to the central part of NC.

Skyline of Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem in the distance. A winding sidewalk with a fence is in the foreground among green grass.

Who wouldn’t want to call this place home?

“View from Long Branch Trail”
Photo by Wendy R. (submitted for our 2023 Picture of the Year contest)

Winston-Salem’s economy is growing — and that’s not by accident. The Carolina Core is doing its part to attract businesses to our region. Loren Hill, Carolina Core’s Regional Economic Development Director, spoke to City Editor Cambridge about the brand and how Winston-Salem benefits.

Attracting development

In 2018, the Piedmont Triad Partnership was looking for a new way to draw companies to the 12-county region.

“The name Piedmont Triad doesn’t mean much to people outside our immediate area. [...] if you ask somebody in California, they might not have a clue what state that’s in, much less what part of the state,” Hill said.

The idea took shape around four megasites along US 421 — two in the Piedmont Triad and two in neighboring Chatham County. Carolina Core became the branding to draw attention to the 120-mile corridor that starts west of Winston-Salem and stretches to Fayetteville. Currently, 19 counties and parts of others use the brand to market economic opportunities.

“If you say North Carolina Carolina Core, most people will assume it’s the central part of the state of North Carolina. So you don’t have to explain what Piedmont Triad is, where it is,” Hill said.

WStoday_Carolina Core

There’s a lot happening in this region of NC.

Graphic by NC Carolina Core

Benefits for Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem is the second-largest municipality in the corridor. Greater Winston-Salem, Inc. — Forsyth County’s chamber of commerce — is one of the economic organizations involved. Hill says the Carolina Core specifically promotes the biomedical and life sciences work happening in the city.

The Twin City is also ~45 miles from the PTI Aerospace + Greensboro Randolph megasites, which companies like Toyota and Boom Supersonic have selected for major manufacturing projects. Hill says the Twin City will attract employees looking for jobs and suppliers looking to do business with them.

The right place for workers

The Carolina Core emphasizes the region’s 30 educational institutions for training a skilled workforce. It also highlights research parks like Innovation Quarter.

Efforts to promote the corridor’s quality of life were revamped in September 2023 with the More in the Core initiative. It’s geared toward attracting out-of-town talent to relocate to the area.

“The campaign that’s going on, social media and otherwise, is showing them not only is this a good place, cost-of-living wise to live and quality of life, amenities, and things to do — natural resources and outdoor recreation — but now you’ve got all these jobs coming here, all these professional jobs coming this direction, that you can live here and work here happily,” Hill said.

Marking the momentum

In just six years, the Carolina Core has garnered more than $20 billion in capital investments. It’s now one of three economic engines in NC.

It has landed the largest jobs announcements in NC for two years in a row. The corridor has created 50,300+ office or industrial jobs. Carolina Core stakeholders now have a goal to create 100,000 by the year 2038.

“More than 33,300 of those jobs have come at places other than megasites. So it’s a mistake to say, ‘oh, only the growth is occurring where those four megasites are.’ [...] We’re having growth everywhere,” Hill said.

The work continues

Hill says a big agenda item could soon impact the Twin City. Stakeholders are working to get US 421 from Wilkesboro to Winston-Salem designated as Future Interstate 777. Many companies want to be close to interstates to move their products efficiently, so the designation would open up more possibilities close by.

Blue skies with a four-lane highway. A signle

Hill says a future I 777 designation would lead to safety improvements, too.

Photo via Google Maps

Forsyth County commissioners have passed a resolution of support, but the final decision is up to Congress. Hill hopes legislation could be drafted and voted on as early as 2025.

When it comes to who can use the Carolina Core brand, Hill says he’s thrilled when businesses and entities choose to make the brand part of their marketing.

“It’s one thing for us to come up with an economic development brand, and for us to use it, and try to promote it, and that others to know where it is. But when the community — when others outside economic development circles embrace it — that’s great news. That means we’re well on our way to getting the brand known and used,” Hill said.