GREENSBORO – Earlier this week, Toyota officially announced that it had selected a Triad site for a $1.3 billion investment in an electric battery manufacturing plant, with the intention of hiring at least 1,750 workers in the region.

Another economic development announcement could be made soon—the next scheduled meeting of the state’s Economic Investment Committee will be held on Dec. 14—and such an announcement could boost both investment in the Triad and create additional jobs, as discussed in a prior WRAL TechWire report on the potential economic development projects in the greater Greensboro area.

That project could be a manufacturing facility for Boom Supersonic, according to reporting from the News & Observer this week.  The company would plan to produce supersonic—hence the name—passenger airplanes at the facility.  The News & Observer noted that five people had confirmed the potential project to the media outlet.  WRAL TechWire has not yet been able to confirm the project.

“Bringing Boom Supersonic to the region illustrates the benefits of having existing expertise and related firms such as HondaJet in the the Aviation Triad,” said Gerald Cohen, chief economist at the Kenan Institute.  “This can create a snowball impact where it generates growing interest from other firms.”

Earlier this year, United Airlines announced it would buy at least 15 of the company’s jets, with an option to purchase up to 35 additional ones, as reported by CNN.

Boom! United Airlines aims to bring back supersonic commercial flights

The News & Observer reported that the plant, if the site was selected, would create more than 1,000 jobs paying some $60,000 in annual wages.

“As the budget illustrates, these are going to be high paying jobs which has multiplier/knock-on effects on the rest of the community,” said Cohen.

In the recently passed North Carolina state budget technical corrections bill, House Bill 334, $106.75 million was allocated for infrastructure investments for the Piedmont Triad Airport.  That funding would be contingent on the awarding of a high-yield Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) award for an airplane manufacturer in Guilford County, noted John Quinterno, a professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, earlier this week.

“Should the project materialize, it would result in the potential addition of many skilled manufacturing-related jobs to the Piedmont Triad area,” said Quinterno.  “The initial reports that many of the jobs would be good-paying ones that would be accessible to many types of workers when combined with appropriate training provided by the firm and or local education partners like area community colleges.”

And the project would also strengthen North Carolina’s aerospace sector, said Quinterno.  HondaJet opened their facility about 10 years ago and announced 31 sales in 2020 earlier this year, ranking the company atop the sales list in its category for the fourth year in a row.

Given the required investment in infrastructure that the awarding of the JDIG and subsequent allocation of funding to infrastructure projects, the selection of the site in the Triad would also yield “tangible improvements to the Triad’s physical infrastructure,” said Quinterno.

House Bill 334 requires the average wage for any project to “a high-yield project for an airplane manufacturer in Guilford County” be “at least sixty thousand dollars” and that the allocated funds will be used for improvements at the Piedmont Triad International Airport with $15 million for site work, $35 million for road work, and $56.75 million for the construction of one or more hangars at the airport.

But there are factors other than the infrastructure improvements and jobs that North Carolina ought to consider, noted Quinterno.  “It is important to see exactly what subsidies beyond infrastructure improvements might be offered to the firm,” he said.  “There always is business risk involved with firms that are targeting new markets and technologies, especially when dealing with a very volatile field like commercial passenger aviation.”

“Depending on the timing of the build outs and completion of Boom and Toyota it could also put more pressure on the high skilled labor and housing markets, though its seems the Aviation Triad is trying to partner with educational institutions to alleviate some of the labor pressure,” said Cohen.

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