RALEIGH – Even more jobs and economic expansion are en route to Wake County while the wait about the whopper projects from Apple and Amazon drags on.
For example, on Tuesday the Raleigh City Council voted to move ahead with a grant proposal to a company that is eyeing the city for a new project. No details, including the firm’s name, were disclosed.
Here’s what a spokesman for the city did say:
“Once the City Council sets the public hearing and the target company agrees to the offered terms, etc., an official public hearing notice will be sent out in advance of the Aug. 21 hearing, as required by state law. That notice will list specific details of the proposed grant agreement.”
This is hardly the only project the city and county are looking to land.
New data from Wake County Economic Development shows that 20 potential “projects” were added to the list of firms considering moving or expanding to the Raleigh region in May. And the county now has 53 “active projects” representing nearly 14,000 jobs. Combined, they represent some $3.5 billion in investment if all were to turn from possibility to signed deals.
Since Oct. 1, 2017, Wake County has landed 70 new and expanding company deals that promise nearly 5,000 jobs and some $51 million in investment.
“This trend continues,” says a very pleased Michael Haley, executive director of Wake County Economic Development. “We are always excited to have a client visit our market because we are able to truly demonstrate the strength, dynamism of the regional economy, and the level of partnership and collaboration in our community.”
Making the final 20 list for the Amazon HQ2 project and its 50,000 jobs has raised Wake County’s profile – a so-called “angel effect” – among corporate and site development planners. And Raleigh has ranked consistently high as a business location from startups to large firms. Apple’s interest in Wake as a site for a new campus in the southern portion of Research Triangle Park which is in Wake County has only added to the hype.
Haley can’t talk in specifics about any potential project. But he can discuss what’s happening overall – which is a lot.
“We (Wake County Economic Development) have experienced an increase in the number of companies interested in our market,” he explains.
“This naturally lends itself to an increase in visits. Additionally, we work on developing relationships with site selection consultants so that they are aware and comfortable with our ability to host visits and ultimately support their client’s decision to expand or locate here.”
A reflection of the county’s appeal is the continuing growth of new office buildings. Corporate real estate firm JLL reported recently that well over 2 million square feet of office space is currently under construction in the Triangle. Much of that is in Raleigh.
Lower rates per square foot that most Amazon HQ2 finalists adds to Wake’s appeal, Haley points out.
“Square footage cost can certainly be a driver in a location decision—as part of the overall costs of doing business. We spend a lot of time talking about the value (not the cost), especially as it relates to talent availability and proximity to other amenities – like the universities, RDU, and other like companies,” he says.
However, the low vacancy rate of some 10 percent is also among the worst among the HQ2 field. Yet Haley doesn’t see a problem.
“A low vacancy rate can be a factor, but we are fortunate that we have quite a bit of space under development and most projects’ timelines can run concurrent with new or in-process construction,” he notes.
Mix of projects
Three senior executives involved in or briefed about corporate expansion plans recently told WRAL TechWire that the Triangle – and in particular Wake County – is a target for several major companies looking to grow.
But many other projects also loom from smaller ventures.
“We work with companies of all sizes every day—from startups to large multinationals,” Haley says.
“Of our current active projects, employment size ranges from 10 employees to more than 1,500.
“Approximately 32 of our active projects are reporting to potentially create 100 or more jobs.
“In terms of trends, it is very common to see projects in the 100 to 500 person range, and we also see a lot of projects with less than 100 projected employees, maybe more in the 20 to 50 person range. This demonstrates the dynamic nature of our regional economy—companies of all sizes want to be part of our innovation ecosystem for a number of reasons.”
Even though total investment in May represented a potential of $3.5 billion which was down from $4.1 billion in April and the number of possible jobs also declined by about 600, Haley sees no reason for alarm.
“The potential capital investment figure can fluctuate with the type of projects and the mix of projects that we are working at any given time,” he explains.
“An increase in capital investment often indicates an increase in manufacturing projects or projects that would require the building of a facility – manufacturing, light industrial, warehousing and distribution, Class A office, or a corporate campus. Currently, we have projects with a wide range of potential investment.
“Our project list truly changes daily – potential projects are constantly evolving – some increase in scope, some close, some are lost, some are won. We actively manage our projects in order to maintain the most accurate list of potential projects as possible. A decline from one month to another is not symptomatic of anything other than activity at the time of the report.”