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REGIONALREPORT Triad

Great expectations

Landing FedEx Corp.’s $300 million air-cargo hub at Piedmont Triad International Airport was supposed to deliver a windfall to the region. A report released in 1998 and commissioned by the Greensboro Area Chamber of Commerce estimated a $2.4 billion economic impact and 750 jobs the first year, reaching 1,500 when the 470,000-square-foot hub was at full capacity. A second report, released a year later, lowered the impact to $1.7 billion but had similar job projections.

But those employment predictions have fallen far short. In August 2011, a spokesman for the Memphis, Tenn.-based company said there were about 250 employees at the air- cargo hub, which opened in 2009 — nine years late. Not only is the economic malaise of the last few years to blame, says Dan Lynch, president of Greensboro Economic Development Alliance, but “it turned out to be a much more automated operation because of state-of-the-art sorting equipment.” There is also less demand for expensive overnight shipping with documents sent digitally.

On the other hand, FedEx Ground, which opened a $100 million distribution center in Guilford County a little more than a year ago, is thriving. The 400,000-square-foot hub started with about 550 employees and 200 contractors. “The ground division is actually growing faster because they’re delivering all these online purchases people are making,” Lynch says. “It really speaks to what’s going on in their industry.” A spokesman says FedEx employs 1,337 full- and part-time employees in the Triad but couldn’t provide a breakdown between air cargo and ground.

Though no studies have measured the actual economic impact of FedEx’s hubs on the Triad, both help Lynch market Greensboro as a major transportation, distribution and logistics center for the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states. “It helps us recruit, especially for manufacturers who need to get parts in and products out.” Lynch noted that Honda Aircraft Co.’s headquarters is across the road from the FedEx air hub for a reason. “Those early studies may have unintentionally and artificially inflated what might happen, but in my world having FedEx invest $300 million and FedEx Ground invest $100 million just might convince the next company to invest.”

Briefs

WINSTON-SALEM — Technology company and coupon processor Inmar will move its headquarters downtown into 240,000 square feet of renovated former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. buildings at Piedmont Triad Research Park. The move is expected to be complete by the end of 2013.

STOKESDALE — Textile maker Culp will expand its plant here, investing $450,000 and adding 129 to its local workforce of more than 410 within four years. The plant produces sewn mattress covers for the High Point-based company.

WINSTON-SALEM BB&T closed its purchase of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based BankAtlantic after receiving regulatory approval. The lender acquired about $3 billion in deposits and moved to No. 6 in market share in the Miami market.

GREENSBORO — Denver-based Frontier Airlines will begin offering direct flights three times a week between Piedmont Triad International and Orlando International airports Nov. 17.

WINSTON-SALEM Southern Community Financial's board of directors terminated CEO F. Scott Bauer and First Executive Vice President Jeffrey T. Clark, effective Sept. 22. Former Chief Financial Officer James Hastings will serve as interim president and CEO. Charlotte-based Capital Bank Financial is purchasing the company and plans to close its acquisition later this year.