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WilmingtonBiz Magazine

Comparing Home Bases

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Sep 26, 2019
Wilmington has its hand to play in the economic development game to attract and retain corporate headquarters. When compared to markets of similar size, one aspect Wilmington has in its deck is quality of life. “I think we outcompete a lot of folks on that,” said Adam Jones, regional economist with the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Swain Center.
 
Jones is the researcher behind the annual Wilmington Regional Economic Scorecard presented by the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce initiative Cape Fear Future. The report ranks the Wilmington area among peer cities such as Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Savannah, Georgia.
 
Another strength, he said, is Wilmington’s pool of highly-educated professionals and fresh talent coming out the region’s university and colleges.
 
New highway infrastructure and new flights at the Wilmington International Airport also have helped the region’s employers connect to places outside of the city, he said.
 
Wilmington, however, is lacking some in connectivity. The area’s seaside location is not geographically centered like other markets such as Raleigh, he said.
 
That connectivity aspect, as well as limited professional job opportunities for spouses who join their partners in the area and social diversity, are some other weaknesses, Jones said.
 
From an economic development perspective, Wilmington’s headquarters create “national attention for Wilmington” and those companies are “great ambassadors and advocate for us,” said Scott Satterfield, CEO of Wilmington Business Development.
 
Area headquarters also bring employment opportunities and can use a range of services from local vendors and suppliers, he said.
 
Attracting more locally headquartered companies to the region is one of WBD’s goals, Satterfield said.  
 
“Absolutely,” he said, “we can and will.”
 

Here is a look at some of the largest for-profit company headquarters in Wilmington and peer cities mentioned in the Wilmington Regional Economic Scorecard. The list, though not all-inclusive, has been sourced from chambers of commerce and economic development groups depending on the availability of the information. Employment numbers are for the companies’ local markets and not their total workforces.
 

Chattanooga, Tennessee



MCKEE FOODS CORP
. is a family-run company that makes snacks and is best known for the Little Debbie brand snack cakes. It employs about 3,100 people in the Chattanooga area.
 
ASTEC INDUSTRIES INC. is a manufacturer of equipment used for operation in the infrastructure, aggregate, mining and energy industries. It employs more than 1,600 people in the area.
 
MILLER INDUSTRIES TOWING EQUIPMENT INC. is a manufacturer of towing and recovery equipment with brands Century, Vulcan, Chevron and Holmes. It employs more than 650 people.
 
KENCO GROUP is a woman-owned logistics solutions company that includes distribution, transportation and real estate management. It employees more than 640 people.
 
TAG MANUFACTURING INC. is a manufacturer of machinery buckets and attachments, including those for excavators and wheel loaders. It employs more than 330 people.
 
Source: Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, companies  

Mobile, Alabama



AUSTAL USA
, with its U.S. headquarters in Mobile, is a global defense prime contractor and a designer and manufacturer of defense and commercial ships. It employs about 4,000 people in the Mobile MSA.
 
CPSI is a health care technology solutions and services company for community hospitals and other health care systems and post-acute care facilities. It employs about 2,000 people.
 
OUTOKUMPU, with its U.S. headquarters in Mobile, is a global stainless steel manufacturer. It employs about 850 people in the Mobile MSA.
 
G.A. WEST & CO. INC. is a company that specializes in the construction of heavy industrial projects. It employs about 800 employees.
 
SSAB AMERICAS, with its U.S. headquarters in Mobile, is a global company that develops high-strength steel and provides services for the industry. It employs more than 580 people in the Mobile MSA.
 
Source: Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, companies

Roanoke, Virginia




VIRGINIA TRANSFORMER CORP.
is a company that engineers, designs and makes power transformers. It employs about 500 in the Roanoke MSA.
 
CARTER MACHINERY CO. is a Caterpillar machinery dealer with headquarters in Salem, Virginia, which is in the Roanoke MSA. It employs about 400 in the area.
 
LAWRENCE COMPANIES is a transportation company with services that include moving and storage, freight, warehousing, construction and agricultural equipment. It employs about 350.
 
TMEIC CORP., with its North American base in Roanoke, is a manufacturer of industrial motors and drives. It employs about 260.
 
HOWELL’S MOTOR FREIGHT INC. is a freight carrier that provides refrigerated, dry and frozen truckload and distribution services mainly for the food and grocery wholesale and retail industry and suppliers. It employs nearly 230 people.
 
Source: Roanoke Regional Partnership, D&B Hoovers, companies  

Savannah, Georgia




GULFSTREAM AEROSPACE CORP.
, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Dynamics, designs, develops, manufactures, markets and services business jet aircraft. It employs 12,000 people in Chatham County where Savannah is located.
 
PARKER’S is a convenience store company with 59 stores across Georgia and South Carolina. It employs about 870 people in Chatham County.
 
JCB NORTH AMERICA is a manufacturer of construction, agricultural and defense equipment including tractors, excavators and forklifts. The UK company holds its North American headquarters in Savannah. It employs 600 people in Chatham County.
 
BRASSELER USA is a company providing instrumentation to health care professionals for use in restorative dentistry, endodontics, oral surgery and oral hygiene. It employs about 400 people in the area.
 
TMX FINANCE FAMILY OF COMPANIES is a business that provides consumer credit products with over 1,200 stores in 17 states. It employs more than 300 people.
 
Source: Savannah Economic Development Authority, companies  

Wilmington, North Carolina



PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT LLC (PPD)
, is a global contract research organization providing comprehensive, integrated drug development, laboratory and lifecycle management services. It opened as a one-person consulting firm in 1985 and now has offices around the world. PPD employs more than 1,500 people locally.
 
LIVE OAK BANK, a subsidiary of Live Oak Bancshares, is a digital-driven FDIC-insured bank that is the largest SBA lender in the U.S. It has about 525 local employees.
 
NCINO is a company that provides cloud-based operating solutions for the financial industry. It has 550-600 in the area.
 
GE HITACHI NUCLEAR ENERGY is a global provider of advanced nuclear reactors, fuel and services. GE Hitachi is a joint venture between General Electric and Hitachi with headquarters in Wilmington. The company does not release individual employment numbers but reports total employment of about 2,800 people at the campus it shares with GE Aviation on Castle Hayne Road.
 
CASTLEBRANCH CORP. is a background screening and compliance firm and home to the business incubator tekMountain. It employs about 370 people.
 
Source: Individual companies  
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