North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2012

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aul Johnson knows fi rsthand how the erosion of traditional manufacturing in Surry County has affected people in this foothills community about 40 miles northwest of Winston-Salem. A lifelong resident of the county, Johnson thought he had built a secure career as a purchasing agent for a local company. "But that textile fi rm is no longer here," Johnson, 50, says. It shuttered operations after global trade pacts began luring manufac- turers offshore. He now farms for a living, a career that also is less lucrative than it used to be. "There's been a gradual downward progression in this area of things that used to be important, like tobacco, textiles and furniture." 1 But even as a double-digit unemploy- ment rate plagues the county for the second year in a row, Johnson, who chairs the Surry County Board of Commissioners, is hopeful. According to a recent study done for the N.C. Department of Commerce, the economic impact of tourism in the county in 2010 was slightly more than $95 million, up nearly 10.4% from the previous year. Throngs of visitors enjoy attractions such as hiking or camping at the 3,700-acre Pilot Mountain State Park, touring Yadkin Valley's numerous wineries or basking in the 1960s nostalgia that surrounds Mount Airy, the model for Mayberry in The Andy Griffi th Show. Poultry processing and other consumer- foods operations have held fi rm. An active Challenge: Surry County's economic developers had to compete with Tennessee and South Carolina to land the 260-job Pittsburgh Glass Works factory. Solution: County offi cials purchased a former distribution center, negotiated a complex lease-purchase agreement, as well as other perks, to win the company. Pittsburgh Glass Works is converting a former Elkin distribution center into a plant that will use modern methods to make automotive glass. North Carolina EDG 51

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