Increasing Economic Equality One City at a Time: Greensboro’s Story

Increasing Economic Equality One City at a Time: Greensboro’s Story

We asked Mayor Nancy Vaughan of Greensboro, NC to speak with us about what Greensboro is doing to become more economically inclusive.

“ Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” – John F. Kennedy

Leaders in Greensboro, North Carolina take the sentiment in this quote from John F. Kennedy to heart.

The community is increasingly diverse. With representatives from 98 countries, speaking 24 languages, Greensboro’s schools are more diverse than comparable urban areas in North Carolina.

Community demographics are changing in other ways as well. The city has a growing older population but workforce replacement by millennials is lagging.

Though unemployment is down and development activity and home values are increasing, the number of households in Greensboro at or below the poverty level has almost doubled since 2000.

How is Greensboro adjusting to these changes in order to have a bright future?

There are five major initiatives underway in Greensboro to address inclusive economic growth:

  1. Small Business Loans: The CDFI (Greensboro Community Development Fund) formerly known as the Greensboro Venture Capital Fund has been created to stimulate the creation of jobs and economic activity in the Greensboro area. By providing debt financing (including subordinate debt) to minority- or female-owned businesses, the fund assists those businesses in obtaining conventional commercial loans, allowing new and expanding businesses to grow and prosper.
  2. Minority and Women Business Enterprises (M/WBE): The goal of the M/WBE Program is to promote equal opportunity, grow capacity and foster sustainable business development for M/WBE firms in Greensboro and the surrounding market.
  3. Greensboro-Randolph Mega Site: The Greensboro-Randolph Mega Site is planned as the home for a major employer that would provide new manufacturing and supporting jobs, benefitting the Greensboro Triad region. The City of Greensboro is working in coordination with Randolph County and State Officials on design work to develop plans to extend water and sewer services to the 1,800 acres of undeveloped land south of Guilford County in the town of Liberty, NC. Once completed, the Mega Site will be uniquely positioned to serve as a home site for an automobile manufacturer and or any kind of advanced manufacturing facility.
  4. Collective Community Workforce Initiatives: As a city, Greensboro is ripe with workforce and entrepreneurial development support. The Guilford County Workforce Development Board serves as a liaison between the business community and the workforce. The board is charged with connecting companies to employee training and workforce development, as well as to multiple entrepreneurial and start-up programs. Opportunities abound for business and residents to grow into their next career.
  5. Incubators: The Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. (NCFE), is a private non-profit corporation founded in 1987 to enhance start up business development in Greensboro and the surrounding area. To accomplish this, the NCFE operates a business incubator located in the heart of Greensboro. The incubator is designed to support non-retail, new or emerging businesses. The Center provides modestly priced office and light manufacturing space along with shared support services such as business counseling, a receptionist, mailboxes, and data entry.
  6. Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts: The Tanger Center will be a state-of-the-art facility with approximately 3,000 seats to serve multiple functions, ranging from Broadway shows to the Bryan Series to symphony performances to comedians, pop and jazz concerts and family entertainment

A closer look at the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts

The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts is a $65 million project that recently broke ground. It will anchor a multi-cultural district, connecting the library, parks and other downtown institutions. The Center will also serve as a catalyst for new downtown development. In an effort to promote business diversity, all construction partners for the Center agreed to use at least 20% MWBE businesses.

According to the AMS Planning and Research Corporation report, the Tanger Center will bring $7.3-10.1 million annually to the local economy. It is projected to bring 268 jobs once the venue is operational.

Lessons Learned

In 2000, Greensboro lost advanced manufacturing jobs related to the aerospace industry as part of the downward shift in the economy. When the jobs left, it was believed that, due to the cyclical nature of the economy, unemployment levels would bounce back without government intervention. Mayor Vaughan recognizes that unemployment issues need to be addressed deliberately in order for economic recovery to occur. She and leadership in Greensboro are working to ensure economic prosperity for all residents.


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