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Losing Greensboro adds regional appeal

For decades, rivalries have plagued the Triad. Winston-Salem versus Greensboro, Greensboro versus High Point, Forsyth County versus Guilford. The cities and counties have competed for jobs, attention, residents, money, you name it.

But the last three years, organizers of the golf tournament known most of its history as the Greater Greensboro Open have followed a path they say has led toward greater regional cooperation and bigger crowds. And all it took was a company with enough money to fill a void as title sponsor and enough vanity to want the tournament’s name all to itself.

When automaker Chrysler dropped out of what was then the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro, organizers got the Wyndham Worldwide hotel chain to take its place. It was willing to pony up an estimated $18 million over four years — but only if the host city’s name was dropped from the tournament’s name.

Tournament organizers made that work by playing up regionalism and getting more help outside the Gate City. Winston-Salem-based BB&T Corp., for example, became a premier sponsor, the second-tier level of support. “They were on board, but they came in in a bigger way after we became the Wyndham, after hearing the regionalism pitch,” tournament director Mark Brazil says.

The Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation, which runs the event, even looked outside Greensboro for honorary chairmen. In 2007, it chose Winston-Salem businessman Paul Fulton. Last year, it picked Allen Gant Jr., CEO of textile maker Glen Raven Inc. in Alamance County. Both traveled across the region to boost the tournament. “Our attendance went from 50,000 two years ago to 80,000 last year, and we sold out on Saturday and Sunday,” Brazil says. Other factors helped. The tournament moved from Forest Oaks Country Club to Sedgefield Country Club, which is closer to Winston-Salem and High Point, and it boasted its strongest field in years after it became the final event of the PGA Tour regular season.

Even so, tournament leaders say they’re on to something bigger than golf. Foundation Chairman Bobby Long believes the tournament will be the catalyst unifying the 12-county region and its 1.6 million people. If it can pull together, it might learn something from a regional rival. “It’s known all over the world as the Triangle,” Brazil says. “We want to be known as the Triad.”

WELCOMEASCO Power Technologies will add 328 jobs during the next five years, bringing the total to nearly 520. The company, part of St. Louis-based manufacturer Emerson, makes automatic switches and power systems that protect hospitals, data centers and telecommunication networks.

RAMSEURRamtex will close this month, idling 205 employees. The yarn maker blamed tough times for the textile industry.

GREENSBORO — The Greensboro Coliseum will host the 2011 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The nine-day event is expected to pump $30 million into the local economy and attract about 4,000 skaters, coaches, officials, media members and fans.

ELON — Virginia-based pork processor Smithfield Foods plans to close six plants nationwide by December, including one that employs about 160 here. It blamed a slump in the meat business.

ELONHohenstein Institute, a German researcher that helps textile makers develop specialized products, opened its U.S. headquarters here. Sam Moore, former research-and-development director at Burlington Chemical, runs it.

KERNERSVILLELimco-Piedmont plans to consolidate its airplane maintenance and repair services at its Piedmont Aviation Component Services subsidiary here by the end of June, nearly doubling employment to more than 245. It will shutter its Limco Airepair subsidiary in its hometown, Tulsa, Okla., idling about 150.

HIGH POINTSchnadig International planned to consolidate U.S. operations here by this month, adding about 70 jobs within four years, for a total of 78. The company will move its corporate offices from Illinois and warehousing operations from Mississippi.

BISCOEFibrowatt, which generates electricity by burning poultry waste, chose a site near here for a $150 million plant that will employ about 100 when it opens in 2012. The Langhorne, Pa.-based company also plans to build plants in Sampson and Surry counties.

WINSTON-SALEMSilkRoad Technology, which makes software to manage human-resources and other business functions, cut about 20 jobs, mostly in sales. That leaves it with nearly 200 workers.

GREENSBOROElon University President Leo Lambert appointed George R. Johnson Jr. the second dean of the law school. Johnson has been interim dean since August, when founding dean Leary Davis stepped down because of poor health.

GREENSBOROUNC Greensboro will launch an entrepreneurship program this fall. Subjects of study will include creative industries, health care, family business and technology.