Greensboro considers new program to attract businesses downtown

GREENSBORO, N.C. — City Council is considering a new program to attract business headquarters to downtown Greensboro.

The Central Business District Headquarters Incentive program would be an addendum to the city’s Urban Development Investment guidelines. It would allow the city to offer $6,000 in incentives for each new job a company created after relocating or creating their headquarters in downtown Greensboro.

If the Council approves this resolution, it would allow them to vote to offer $150,000 in incentives to Gerbing’s Heated Clothing, which makes high-tech apparel and plans to relocate its headquarters to downtown Greensboro.

According to information provided by Downtown Greensboro Inc., third-party company CBRE reported a vacancy rate of 8.7% in the “Greensboro Central Business District,” which is downtown. It shows an average lease rate of $16.58 per year per square foot. Those numbers are from the first quarter of 2013.

View full list of vacancy rates here.

According to information from research company Karnes, Guilford County had an overall vacancy rate of 20% in the first quarter of 2013. They report a “Guilford Central Business District” vacancy rate of 14.3% and average rent of $18.58 per square foot.

Sam Simpson of Simpson, Schulman and Beard commercial real estate company says there is room to grow and spaces to rent downtown if we can get companies interested in moving to Greensboro.

Simpson is in the process of renting to a prospective corporate headquarters in the former U.S. Trust Building downtown, which currently has about 40,000 square feet total available to lease. The top two floors, currently vacant, also offer naming rights for the building to whomever decides to move in.

Simpson said City Council is taking a step in the right direction to consider incentives for corporate headquarters. “It’s one thing to offer incentives for jobs. We all want jobs. But when you’re attracting a headquarters locations, you’re attracting the highest level jobs. The highest paying jobs. We’ve got to get more proactive about that,” he added.

His business partner Brett Schulman is also working to lease several prime spots along Elm Street in downtown Greensboro, including space at the First Citizens Bank. That building, he pointed out, was 98% occupied in 2004; now it is 60% occupied. “We are doing some things right, but we have a long way to go,” he said, referring to incentives to attract companies to Greensboro.

Schulman said restaurants, bars and club all add to the vibe and flavor of downtown life, but he believes landing big business is what will make downtown thrive.

“I wish I had a crystal ball, but we just need leadership that grabs the bull by the horn and gets corporate citizens downtown,” Schulman said.