Whether it is a European company bringing in hundreds of jobs or a married couple operating a small bakery, the business climate in Davidson County is red hot these days. According to local officials, the difference between the economic climate in the county today and 10 years ago like night and day.
The North Carolina Department of Commerce reports the unemployment rate in Davidson County hit an all-time high of 13.9 percent in 2010 and many of the manufacturing companies had either closed or moved overseas, which in turn negatively impacted local businesses.
Fast-forward to 2019, and the unemployment rate is at 3.4 percent. New businesses are popping up every week, national franchises are opening new locations in the county and major industries are bringing hundreds of jobs to the area.
As Thomasville City Manager Kelly Craver would say, things are going gangbusters.
“The burner is turned up on high right now,” Craver said. “We have had four new businesses open on Main Street in the last month. We have lots of things going on Randolph Street and we are seeing a lot of our larger businesses expanding and creating more manufacturing jobs.”
Lexington Business and Development Director Tammy Absher said she has seen the same thing in Lexington over the past couple of years.
“The business climate is super healthy right now,” Absher said. “Things are coming online really fast; we are getting a lot of new businesses and inquiries every day. I would say that I talk to at least three people a week that are in the process of starting a new business in Lexington. There is anything from entrepreneurs starting a small business to national chains that are interested in our market.”
She said the city issued 544 business certificates of occupancy between January 2014 and December of 2018.
Craig Goodson, president and CEO of Davidson County Economic Development Commission, works mostly with industrial recruitment in the county. He said the addition of Austria-based manufacture EGGER, has been a great addition to the county, but established companies in the area are also hiring at a frenzied pace.
“EGGER was a good feather in the cap, and I think our existing industries are, for the most part, very positive about their future,” Goodson said. “All of them are growing. They are continuing to seek additional employees. Just like everyone across the county, labor is really tight. They are looking at how they get more employees.”
He said Davidson Community College, Davidson Works and the public education system have been key players when it comes to making sure the labor force has the skill set employers need.
Goodson said he is encouraged in the continued success of many of the businesses in the area and the addition of more companies.
“I think we are going to continue to see good projects,” Goodson said. “The task is to make sure that we are committed and focused on bringing companies that will offer good paying jobs that offer people a career, not just a job.”
Craver said that if current activity is any indicator, Thomasville and Davidson County will continue to grow and add more businesses over the next several years.
“I feel at this point, we are on the cusp of development,” Craver said. “We have seen significant investment in the retail area. Almost all of our storefronts on Main Street are full and there isn’t much space available on Randolph Street. There is a great amount of enthusiasm and investment in other areas as well.”
Absher said that although Lexington will continue to seek new franchises, like they did with Chick-Fil-A and Starbucks, city leaders want to make sure to balance it with small businesses that give the city its unique charm.
“We are continuing our effort into to get more development. However, we will be putting emphasis on design, quality and variety,” Absher said. “We want to make sure all the development in our community doesn’t detract from the personality that we have. We want to set it up to be a business-friendly community, but at the same time keep the things that make us unique.”
Sharon Myers can be reached at (336) 249-3981, ext. 228, or firstname.lastname@example.org