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REGIONALREPORT Triad

Making do with the bear minimum
 
clientuploads/Archive_Images/2013/12/triad-region_polar-bear.jpgThe North Carolina Zoo is expanding its polar bear exhibit, but until November it wasn’t clear if it would have any to exhibit. The zoo had two before construction began on the expansion in 2011. Aquila, who was sent to the Detroit Zoo when renovations began, died in September from a ruptured stomach after returning to Asheboro. A few weeks later, Wilhelm, who had been lent to the Milwaukee Zoo, was euthanized after he stopped eating. With no polar bears, the zoo’s attendance — 761,964 last year — was bound to take a hit. “It would’ve been big,” spokesman Rod Hackney says. “According to visitor surveys, polar bears are the most popular exhibit.”
Zoo officials always planned to add more polar bears once the $8.5 million project — which will quadruple the size of the enclosure — is completed next summer. But after it started, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service halted the importation of the endangered animals. The zoo is working with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to get wild ones from Canada — it wants six total — and Gov. Pat McCrory vowed to aid negotiations with the federal agency after Aquila died. “The zoo is one of North Carolina’s top
tourist attractions,” he told the Asheboro Courier-Tribune in September, citing its annual $150 million contribution to the region. “It is an outstanding recreational and educational resource for our citizens and those visiting North Carolina and also provides a boost to the local economy.” However, if his office has followed through with his pledge to help, “they haven’t made us aware,” Hackney says.
The fear of an empty exhibit was allayed when the zoo announced Patches would move to Asheboro in November. The 25-year-old female was kept at the zoo in Erie, Pa., which is closing its exhibit. It will be tough for the state zoo to get five more polar bears in similar fashion; there are only about 50 captive ones in the nation. But it’s important to hit that mark if the zoo wants to grasp another goal: becoming a multiday destination. “We may have to look at different animals, maybe a different species of bear.”

$388.8 million
Price Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Company Ltd. will pay for Greensboro-based TIMCO Aviation Services Inc. The deal, expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, will create one of the largest aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul businesses in the world and give the Chinese company a foothold in the U.S., where TIMCO employs about 3,000.

7.3%
The vacancy rate for apartments in the Triad, according to Real Data LLC, a Charlotte market-research company. That’s the lowest it has been in a decade. Development in the region, however, has been modest, with construction starting on fewer than 500 units in the last six months.
  
5th
Rank of Elon University’s Martha and Spencer Love School of Business on Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2013 list of top part-time MBA programs in the U.S. It was No. 1 in 2011.
Briefs
MOCKSVILLE — Gildan Yarns will open a spinning mill here as part of an expansion that includes a new mill in Salisbury and renovating one in Clarkton. In all, the subsidiary of Montreal-based Gildan Activewear will invest more than $250 million and create 500 jobs in North Carolina.
THOMASVILLE — Korea-based Custom Nonwoven will open a plant here to make fire-retardant mattress pads, investing $12.8 million and creating 72 jobs within three years. The average annual salary will be $45,875, higher than Davidson County’s average of $32,339.
WINSTON-SALEM — Sam’s Club stores in the Southeast began selling 40-ounce bags of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts coffee, which is made by Concord-based S&D Coffee. The doughnut-maker offers 12-ounce bags in its shops.

WINSTON-SALEM —
Novant Health entered into shared-services partnerships with Hinesville, Ga.-based Liberty Regional Medical Center and Spartanburg, S.C.-based Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System that will reduce expenses by increasing buying power. The health system has entered into six such partnerships since last year.