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North Carolina attracts record visitor spending - May 9, 2017 report

N.C. Sec. of Commerce Anthony Copeland announced yesterday (Tuesday) that North Carolina tourism generated record visitor spending in 2016 with a total of $22.9 billion, a 4.3 percent increase from 2015. Additionally, tourism industry-supported employment topped 218,000 jobs to set another record for the state.

"Nearly 50 million people from across the United States visited North Carolina destinations last year," Sec. Copeland said. "The money they spent supported 218,340 jobs and more than 45,000 businesses."

Sec. Copeland applauded the growth in direct tourism employment, which was up 3.2 percent from 2015. Payroll income grew even more, increasing 5.9 percent to top $5.5 billion.

The figures are from research commissioned by Visit North Carolina, and conducted by the U.S. Travel Association. Other findings from the study showed state tax receipts from visitor spending rose 5.2 percent to nearly $1.2 billion. Visitors spent nearly $63 million per day in North Carolina last year and contributed about $5.1 million per day in state and local tax revenues as a result of that spending.

"The tourism industry's success is shared across North Carolina," said Visit NC's Wit Tuttell. "Tourism means jobs in all of the state's 100 counties. In addition, each North Carolina household saves $497 annually in state and local taxes as a result of tax revenue generated by visitor spending."

The overview of the report can be found online at

Cleveland County has moved into the top 10 counties, out of 100, for tourism in 2017!

Tourism is a major force in North Carolina's economic development. The industry is fueling a continued growth in jobs and contributing substantial sums to the state budget and local economies in every corner of our great state.

Nothing compares with our state's diverse natural beauty and rewarding experiences at every turn. We can take pride in North Carolina's position as the sixth most-visited state in the nation with our visitors each year.

Highlights of the new county-based data include:

  • Mecklenburg County ranked first among North Carolina's 100 counties, receiving $5 billion in domestic travelers' expenditures. Wake County ranked second with $2.1 billion, followed by Guilford County with $1.3 billion and Dare with $1.1 billion. Buncombe County, for the first time, topped $1 billion in visitor spending.
  • The largest percent increases in visitor spending were seen in Polk (11.8 percent), Cherokee (7.8 percent), Vance (4.7 percent), Henderson (4.7 percent) and Union (4.6 percent) counties. Montgomery, Catawba and Cleveland counties (Cleveland is where we are expanding in and have been for eight years) followed with a 4.5 percent increase each. Rounding out the top 10 in largest increases were Richmond and Pasquotank counties (4.4 percent).
  • Positive spending growth was seen throughout the state's economic development regions. The Western (3.9 percent) and North Central (3.3 percent) regions experienced the strongest growth, yet all eight regions had spending growth of 2 percent or more.
  • Mecklenburg County had the largest number of direct tourism employees (49,870) and the largest payroll ($1.7 billion). Four other counties had more than 10,000 direct tourism employees: Wake (21,897), Guilford (13,127), Dare (12,711) and Buncombe (10,637).
  • Ninety-two percent of the state's counties saw direct tourism employment growth in 2015. Counties with the largest year-over-year increases in direct tourism employment were Polk (12.1 percent), Cherokee (7.4 percent), Vance (5.0 percent), Union (4.9 percent), Montgomery (4.8 percent), Richmond (4.7 percent) and Pasquotank (4.7 percent).

Other strong growth items:

  • Forbes names North Carolina 4th best state for business and careers
  • Charlotte #4 in Forbes’ ranking of America’s Fastest Growing Cities Since the Recession
  • Charlotte ranks 6th by Fox Business’ for Top U.S. Cities for Small Business Growth
  • Reuters reports North Carolina as 5th-largest state for Chinese Investment in the U.S.
  • Charlotte 4th Best City for Total Job Openings in Bright Employment Report
  • North Carolina Visitor Profile, A publication of the North Carolina Division of Tourism, Film & Sports Development.  NC moves to the 6th most visited state in America.
  • Read about the explosive growth on Interstate 85 (I-85) fueling the United States. Discover Greenville, SC and it's impact on the United States with the I-85 corridor being on fire.
  • Follow the meeting of Mayors and Professors as they collaborate to intensify Interstate 85, north to south with the Department of Transportation and the 201.5 million dollar project.
  • ARWLHC efforts of 8,000+ members thanked by the State of North Carolina in the Gaston Gazette newspaper.
  • See the 2.6 million dollar beginning of rebuilding a full-scale Fort Dobbs in Statesville, NC to celebrate the French and Indian War. We are not the only group with this type of multi-million dollar idea and building multi-hundred thousand, square foot facilities. Fort Dobbs is a completely different era.  It will be part of our link on the new history trail. Covered in the Charlotte Business Journal.

High profile items:

  • A Welcome Letter to homeowners and small business owners.
  • The ARWLHC featured in the Gaston Gazette with actors photos.
  • Charlotte Observer features our world award-winning B & B Inn by Joe DePriest.
  • Prototype plan skyrockets to worldwide, #1 Inn to visit for History, in 14 months - Reuters/Shelby Star.  NC tax filings continue to escalate, on year-to-year analysis following high occupancy.
  • Three out of four North Carolinians voted to support conservation & preservation.  See the Yearbook now on the greatest resource in the Carolinas.  A separate, independently paid study conducted by Land for Tomorrow.  "Land for Tomorrow, a coalition of conservation, agriculture, wildlife, business and local government organizations, is committed to preserving and protecting North Carolina’s land and water resources. Its goal is to increase public awareness of the need to protect additional lands that are critical to the economic well-being and quality of life. Land for Tomorrow seeks to help the state reach its declared goal of conserving a million acres, and ensure that critical land will be available to provide clean air and drinking water, strengthen our communities, promote job growth and enhance the quality of life for generations to come."
  • Media Advisory for Fabulous 4th Fireworks mega-show grown to with 15,000 non-paying spectators complete with cannons and the ARWLHC producing the first Battle of King's Mountain show in history with an attack uphill.  Crowd became so large that the Police force and emergency services made the noteworthy comments of, "charging folks to watch the battle would be a lot smarter."
  • Media Advisory about the Gateway Festival and ARWLHC featured on TV show.
  • PowerPoint presentation with voice-overs and music on Proposed Target Audience
  • The ARWLHC and RNCR as main act of 2010 NRA Convention Kick-off dinner
  • ARWLHC & The Inn of the Patriots featured with colonial Presidents and First Family exhibits and Jefferson China, Shelby Star & Gaston Gazette

The UPDATE on our region from Ronnie L. Bryant, CEcD, FM, HLM, President & CEO - Charlotte Regional Partnership: For years, I and other economic developers, workforce development boards and community colleges seemed to be lone voices singing the praises of American manufacturing against a chorus of naysayers.

Not anymore.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama began the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, and in his State of the Union Address last week, he called for creating 15 Manufacturing Innovation Institutes around the country. Locally, the Manufacturing Solutions Center, a division of Catawba Valley Community College, recently moved to a new space, tripling its size. Our 10 community colleges work closely with regional manufacturers to provide the skills their workforce needs. The Charlotte Business Journal is recognizing excellence at its Advanced Manufacturing Awards Luncheon. And The Brookings Institution asks “Is Manufacturing ‘Cool’ Again?” The conclusion: If the word gets out about the new emphasis on technology and innovation – and good pay – you’d better believe it.

At last week’s Institute for Emerging Issues Forum, @Manufacturing Works, an entire orchestra of educators, economic developers and elected officials, including N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory and former N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt, emphasizedthe impact, challenges and tremendous opportunities that advanced manufacturing offers the state and our region.

I moderated a panel that featured Dave Dalton of General Microcircuits, Roy Johnson of Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Scott Millar of the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation and John Ziegert of UNC Charlotte. John defined advanced manufacturing as a marriage between technology and knowledge to create a competitive advantage.

With lower labor costs outside the U.S. and the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs – about 46 percent between 1997 and 2010 – it has been difficult for many people to understand how our country, let alone Charlotte USA, could have a competitive advantage in manufacturing. However, while the job losses have been well-publicized, it is less well-known that during that same time, output in North Carolina rose 26 percent. In fact, according to NC Manufacturing Facts, manufacturing has been the biggest factor in the state’s economic growth coming out of the recession.

In today’s advanced manufacturing operation, one worker can do what three used to do. And that worker earns more than twice the state average. Not only do these jobs pay well, but according to the @Manufacturing Works forum paper, three jobs are produced to support every manufacturing job that’s created. Additionally, each dollar spent in manufacturing results in $1.35 spent other places in the economy. As John said, that multiplier is a “wealth creator.”

Roughly 60 percent of the projects in our pipeline are – and historically have been – manufacturing companies. That’s not surprising, since North Carolina the fourth most productive manufacturing state in the country. Between 1992 and 2010, @Manufacturing Works reports that the number of manufacturing operations rose almost 34 percent, adding more than 23,000 jobs, with pharmaceutical and aerospace manufacturing companies among the fastest growing sectors. However, that doesn’t mean everyone should rush out trying to attract manufacturers in those sectors. Scott Millar made a very good point when he said for effective economic development, local and regional assets need to be aligned, and there must be a long-term commitment to the target sectors.

One of these commitments must be education, both of the workforce and the public.
The city of Monroe has made that commitment. It recently kicked off a manufacturing awareness campaign to encourage high school students to consider manufacturing as a career. All the principals – none of which had set foot inside local manufacturing operations – toured the plants to experience the high-tech operations first hand.

Our two 2013 Jerry Award recipients, Siemens Energy and Apprenticeship 2000, have made that commitment. They’re partnering with suppliers to create efficiencies. They are making significant investments in both the training and retraining of their employees, providing them with both the technical skills and the encouragement to collaborate with their co-workers on innovations.

That commitment to and investment in education pays dividends.

Family film shooting in the region: Charlotte USA has stood in for the Washington, D.C. suburbs (“Homeland”), a Pennsylvania Amish town (“Banshee”), a dystopian future (Hunger Games), a New England fishing village (“Shelter”) and countless other diverse locales. Now, the region is standing in for Balsam, a fictional Tennessee town in An Evergreen Christmas. The Charlotte Regional Film Commission worked with the independent film in finding locations in Gaston, Lincoln and Mecklenburg counties. Those locations, plus the state incentives, attracted the production, which has hired more than 100 local extras and a primarily regional crew. An Evergreen Christmas is about a country girl who left for the big city, but comes home for a funeral and finds the family in dire straits. In the process, she reconnects with her musical heritage. Robert Loggia, who was in The Sopranos and Big, among other movies, is one of the stars, and singer Naomi Judd also has a role.

Airline merger should benefit CLT: The long talked-about merger between American Airlines and US Airways that was approved by their stockholders should be a plus for Charlotte Douglas International Airport and the region. Although the deal still is subject to regulatory review and approval, the two airlines have complementary routes, so it is unlikely the merger will run into FAA opposition. I anticipate the new American Airlines (headed by US Airways CEO Doug Parker) will add to the Charlotte region’s already outstanding connectivity. Currently, Charlotte Douglas is without a doubt one of the best, if not the best, run airports in the country. Its low operating costs, location in the hot Southeast U.S. and proven track record as a major hub all are in its favor. Plans now would make it the world’s largest airline’s second-largest hub, second only to American’s headquarters airport, Dallas/Fort Worth. Additional merger information is at

Energy update: Recently, UNC Charlotte and York Tech showed the energy documentary Switch, which provides a wide-ranging, objective and pragmatic look at energy generation. Sponsored by E4, UNC Charlotte’s screening debuted, February 19th, at 6 p.m. in the EPIC Building and York Tech’s was on February 21 at 1 p.m. Following the 98-minute video, a panel of energy professionals discussed the energy industry in the Carolinas.

Last October, I told you about Parker Hannifin’s decision to create a division in Charlotte to develop and manufacture inverters and other high-tech parts for the renewable energy sector. Well, the division has now opened with 40 full-time workers, many of which are shared with the company’s SSD Drive Division. Parker Hannifin already wants to hire three new people for his division.

Calling entrepreneurs: Innovation is one of America’s hallmarks, and each May, UNC Charlotte’s Charlotte Venture Challenge will choose six early-stage entrepreneurial companies to receive a total of more than $75,000 and mentoring. The winner will receive $25,000. The 12-year-old business innovation competition is open to companies in the Carolinas, Tennessee, Virginia, Georgia and Washington, D.C. Student entrepreneurs enrolled in two- or four-year higher education institutions can submit applications to enter through March.  Last year, the competition attracted more than 117 companies. Organized by UNC Charlotte’s Charlotte Research Institute and Ventureprise, the contest is judged by business leaders that include successful regional entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists. The competition categories are: new energy & high tech; IT & informatics; life and biotech sciences; consumer products and services; student undergraduate ventures; and student graduate ventures. To apply, visit For additional questions, contact Devin Collins at or 704.250.5753.

Charlotte ranks in small business vitality: Among America's 102 major markets for small-business vitality, Charlotte ranked 11th. The survey, conducted by The Business Journals, looked at prosperity, expansions and small business density. To see all the rankings, click here.

Locations, expansions...  Integro Technologies Corp. is expanding in Salisbury. The production line quality control design company will be moving downtown and adding 12 jobs, half of them by this summer and the rest by the end of 2014.Integro, whose workforce has tripled in two years, hopes to be in the building before the end of the year.

Siser USA has moved its headquarters in Charlotte. The Italian photovoltaic solar installation turnkey operation, which has three employees, plans to add another 10 over the next three years
Siser cited Charlotte’s infrastructure, especially the airport, its “attractive” business climate, “convenient” time zone to Europe, affordability, high quality of life, and proximity to its Chinese partner Jetion Solar U.S. Corp., whose U.S. headquarters is in Charlotte, as the reasons it chose Charlotte for its U..S. headquarters.

Investor profile: Our investors’ commitment to regionalism allows us to continue and enhance our mission-critical efforts to generate qualified projects, create awareness of the many assets our region offers businesses, and assist communities in responding to projects requests. This week we will highlight Allen Tate Realtors. Read about them in the box below and when you see a member of the company, please thank them for their support of regionalism.

Ronnie L. Bryant, CEcD, FM, HLM
President & CEO - Charlotte Regional Partnership