- Business & Development
- Economic Development
- The Importance of Existing Industries
The Importance of Existing Industries
City of Burlington
Economic Development Office
January 9, 2023
As the new year begins and anticipation continues to build for what the future may hold, many wonder what will happen in Burlington with all the megasites and big companies locating nearby in 2022. To be sure, we are thrilled to see so many new companies making North Carolina and the Carolina Core home. But a solid economic development strategy doesn’t solely rely on new companies – some of its most dedicated, important, and influential members are those businesses that have been here all along.
The multi-faceted nature of economic development includes not only business recruitment, with the introduction of new companies to an area, but also business retention – the intentional support of existing businesses, which fuel job creation and industry permanence in an area. Though bringing in new companies makes a business climate more dynamic, retaining and uplifting current industries is the foundation on which economic development stands – and cannot exist without.
The Importance of Existing Industries
Existing businesses are important to the local economy for several reasons, including stability, new job growth, investment, and community identity. Several studies have concluded that job growth from existing businesses is significantly higher than from industry attraction – in fact, existing industry growth accounts for around 80% of the net new job growth in a community. Though attracting businesses to the area can be important, especially because it inspires competition and potential suppliers in the surrounding areas, the maintenance of existing companies, especially those that have been rooted there for generations, not only makes a place look like a successful destination, but also inspires confidence in the community at large.
A big reason jobs are created from these existing businesses is due to expansions and new investments. Businesses that have grown in one location have developed a stake in the community and heavily contribute to its economic vitality and social fabric. By expanding their business, the company is spending money to increase their business presence locally, which simultaneously means investing in the community. Not only is this easier and cheaper for the company – because it is more effective to retain existing customers – but it is cheaper for the community as well. Industry attraction can be costly to a community through infrastructure development and tax incentives; by supporting the companies already there, the community in turn reduces some of the financial risk to themselves.
If nothing else, strengthening existing businesses serves as proof that an incoming company can succeed in that business community. The more decades-old companies a city has, the stronger its industry presence can be, and the stronger a newcomer’s confidence can be. A community is built upon its local businesses, its history, and its people – and because of that, the community takes pride in its existing businesses.
Burlington's Business Climate
Burlington is a city built on a strong history of textiles and agriculture – a history it shares with many areas throughout North Carolina. As technology and time have progressed, the City’s five main industry clusters – advanced manufacturing, aerospace, life sciences, food manufacturing, and textile manufacturing – help identify the current business culture. There are dozens of businesses throughout the City that have begun their journey here and have given back to their community in countless ways, whether through business, investments, and by contributing to the dynamic history of Burlington itself. This community would not be what it is today without the work and dedication of its local businesses, whether big or small. Here are a few examples of local businesses that began their journey in Burlington and have thrived throughout the years.
Labcorp is a global life sciences and healthcare company headquartered in downtown Burlington. The company employs more than 75,000 people worldwide and serves clients in over 100 countries, with around 5,000 employees located in Alamance County. Labcorp employs a vast team of scientists, medical researchers, doctors, and healthcare professionals that provide vital information and research to doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, researchers, and patients around the world. It is a company formed by three brothers who started a laboratory business in a Burlington hospital basement in 1969 and, through multiple acquisitions and merges, officially created Labcorp in 1995 as one of the largest clinical lab providers in the world. The company has continued to grow, with revenue totaling more than $14 billion in 2020. Labcorp is a major operator out of the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport, flying in medical samples for testing, and was pivotal in the research and maintenance of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the region.
With a local history of over 140 years, Glen Raven has served the textile industry in Burlington for generations. Founded originally as a cotton mill, the company started by making apparel, including the invention of Panti-Legs, the world’s first ever pantyhose. The company’s innovative approach to textiles led them to performance fabrics, assembling products such as parachutes, umbrellas, awning covers, and upholstery. Glen Raven is the parent company to over a dozen brands like Sunbrella, Trivantage, and Dickson, to name a few, and serves markets for marine, furniture, protective, and more. Glen Raven has a global presence with locations in 23 countries across six continents – with their headquarters still in Burlington.
Alamance Foods, Inc., founded in 1927 as a food manufacturing company, is another example where history intertwines with innovation. The Scott family, starting with R.W. Scott selling home-churned butter and cream from his family, eventually established Alamance Foods with the foundational and revolutionary production of Aerosol Whipped Cream. The company was one of the first producers of aerosol whipped cream in the nation and has since expanded their product base to include flavored drinks, freezer pops, and bottled water. Over time they have grown to the now four facilities in Burlington, numbering over 800 employees, and intend to expand operations in the future.
These are just a few examples of foundational companies that have helped shape the community seen today. As Burlington Economic Development looks forward to the new year, especially as big announcements continue to be revealed in the surrounding regions of the Piedmont Triad and Research Triangle, we seek to uplift the essential work and contributions of the City’s locally founded businesses with the same levels of excitement.
Isabella DeLaGarza, EYOS Fellow
425 S. Lexington Ave.
Burlington, NC 27215