There’s strength in numbers. A group of people has more influence or power than one person, and it is known that three are even better, for as the adage goes, a cord of three strands is not easily broken. The triple punch of the North Carolina Triad — Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point — and surrounding smaller communities, makes a tremendous impact on North Carolina’s economics, education, health care and quality of life.
What Makes Up "The Triad"
The Piedmont Triad’s reach stretches midway between the innovation hub of Research Triangle Park in the capital city corridor and North Carolina’s largest city of Charlotte. Located in the state’s central Piedmont region, the Triad cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point form the 39th largest combined statistical area in the United States with 1.7 million residents and over 800,000 jobs strong. The Triad cities are easily accessible inside and outside the state by Interstates 40, 85, 73 and 74, as well as an extensive freeway system, and the PART express regional bus system and daily service from the Piedmont Triad International (PTI) Airport and Amtrak railway.
As the third largest city in North Carolina, the Guilford County city of Greensboro is the county seat and the largest of the Triad trio. Greensboro was nicknamed the “Gate City” in 1891 when 60 or more trains arrived in and departed from the city each day. However, the true name of Greensboro was given much earlier. The city was named in honor of Major General Nathanael Green, the commander of the American forces at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse that occurred March 15, 1781, during the American Revolutionary War. The battle paved the way for the American victory at Yorktown seven months later. The battlefield is part of the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, which the National Park Service preserves as a National Military Park.
During the railway reign, goods went to and from the area’s many cotton textiles mills and manufacturing plants. The manufacturing landscape changed in the early 2000s, but Greensboro is still a major player in today’s advanced manufacturing field. Airport-addressed companies Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co., one of the largest providers of aircraft maintenance and manufacturers of aerospace products worldwide, and personal jet manufacturer HondaJet, offer innovation and expanded operations in Greensboro.
Greensboro also still holds the main offices of International Textile Group of Cone and Burlington Industries, Galey & Lord, Unifi and ITG Brands, manufacturer of Kool, Winston and Salem brand cigarettes, the third-largest tobacco company in the United States.
Aside from modern manufacturing, Several Fortune 500 companies and well-known businesses have stakes in Greensboro, including Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, UPS, FedEx, United Guaranty, Lincoln Financial, AT&T, UnitedHealth Group, RF Micro devices (RFMD), TIMCO Aviation, Lenovo and American Express. Greensboro is revered for its status as the lowest cost location for Fortune 500 corporate headquarters among 30 major U.S. metro areas.
For a city often called Jeansboro instead of Greensboro, traditional blue jean and clothing manufacturing operations of the past have morphed into new beginnings for companies such as Kontoor Brands, Inc., a jeanswear spinoff clothing company of one of Greensboro’s longtime company, VF Corp. A carrier of Lee, Wrangler Jeans and other brands, Kontoor houses merchandising, design and product development, as well as innovative applications, in the new office space at Revolution Mill, a mixed-use complex north of Greensboro’s dynamic downtown.
The downtown area also features several other popular attractions. Newbridge Bank Park, home to the minor league Greensboro Grasshoppers, is one for the bucket list, and Natty Greene’s Brewing Company, which offers its signature beer selections and pub menu offerings, another. To activate your inner artist, try the Carolina Theatre performing arts center for concerts, independent and classic movies, dance performances and community theater. Or, wait for a little while for the new kid on the block, the Steven Tanager Center for the Performing Arts, set to open spring 2020, featuring Broadway shows including the well-received “Wicked.” The center will host some 150 live performances annually, bringing new hotels, restaurants and an estimated 337,000 to 400,000 people downtown in the days to come.
Due west and a 30-minute drive from Greensboro is the Forsyth County city of Winston-Salem, another strong strand in the Triad three-part cord. Winston-Salem is Forsyth’s county seat and the second-largest municipality in the Piedmont Triad, behind Greensboro.
It is the fifth most populous city in North Carolina, with some 245,000 residents today. The city also stands out for what stands out on its skyline — the tallest office building in the Triad, the Wells Fargo Center at 100 North Main Street — formerly the Wachovia building.
Winston-Salem is called “The City of Arts and Innovation” for its focus on arts and technological research, the “Twin City” for its duality of names and “Camel City” for the city’s historical involvement in the tobacco industry and Camel-brand cigarettes. Call it what you will, but due to its livability and special attractions, many call it home as evidenced by its second-place recognition in the past two years by The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal lists of the most livable downtowns in America.
More attention has come to Winston-Salem the past few years due to its revitalized Innovation Quarter, a unique campus-style development downtown that features regional offices and labs for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center and the Wake University School of Medicine. The Innovation Quarter is a public and private investment that combines business, information technology, biomedical research and engineering and digital media with public gathering spaces, community events and urban living.
Top industries in the city include health care, social services, business and professional services and education. Health care is Forsyth County’s largest employer through the medical-related markets created by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and Novant Health.
Many move to Winston-Salem for its good jobs, and others come for its concentration of institutions of higher education. Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem University, the UNC School for the Arts, Salem College and Forsyth Technical Community College join the ranks along with other Triad higher ed schools: Greensboro College, Bennett College, North Carolina A&T University, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Guilford College, all of Greensboro; and Laurel University, Guilford Technical Community College and High Point University in the city of High Point. The latter school was named the No. 1 best regional college on the U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” list.
High Point is the third factor in the Triad threesome, but what an essential element it is. Named for being the highest point on the North Carolina Railroad between Goldsboro and Charlotte, High Point’s more modern monikers have it as “North Carolina’s International City™” and the “Home Furnishings Capital of the World.™”
The city is greatly known for its history in the furniture-making industry, with the High Point Market continuing year after year to be a central part of the economy. The furniture and furnishings trade show is the largest of its kind in the world, with over 100 countries represented through buyers, sellers and spectators. The industry has an impact of $8.25 billion and more than 70,000 local jobs annually.
The city has spread its wings into other fields, giving more than a nod to past textile markets and a forward glance to innovations. These job markets include distribution and logistics, customer service, banking, manufacturing and health care. Some major employers are Ralph Lauren Corporation, High Point Regional UNC Health Care and Thomas Built Buses.
The Triad’s three larger cities form a well-built bond in the North Carolina Piedmont — individually great, but stronger together.