The effect of having company headquarters in the Piedmont Triad

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It’s like a vanishing asset – big, well-known companies that once called the Piedmont Triad home moving their headquarters elsewhere.

Over the years, we’ve seen it with banks, like Wachovia and, now, BB&T, with insurance companies like the former Jefferson Pilot and at least parts of iconic names like Krispy Kreme and VF Brands.

Luke Bollinger covers these and other business stories for the Triad Business Journal and he talks to city leaders – some, elected officials who certainly won’t say this publicly and private business people who will – that it hurts the Triad’s ability to project a vibrant image when that happens.

“There is an image issue where, you know, you're losing these headquarters, you're losing that visibility of having these publicly-traded companies in your area,” Bollinger said.

Sometimes, there isn’t much this area can do to keep these companies.

“With VF, they were becoming more of a lifestyle and outdoor brand company so (their new headquarters location of) Denver really fit that for them,” Bollinger said.

But the people who work to keep this a strong economic area are also pointing out that it isn’t all bad news. With BB&T’s move to Charlotte, after a merger with SunTrust, the company is leaving something significant behind.

“For us to now have the community bank headquarters - regional headquarters - for the sixth largest bank in the country, here in Winston, that's a big deal,” said Mark Owens, the head of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce. “So, while we're losing corporate headquarters, we're growing our community banking headquarters of a larger, combined bank.”

And most people who watch these things note that communities are going to do best by growing the businesses that are here, rather than trying to lure new headquarters to the area. Owens sees that with when he looks at legacy companies in Winston-Salem like Sara Lee’s Hanes Mills.

“We need to make sure that we have a system in place that we are growing the next Hanes,” Owens said.

Stan Kelly runs the Piedmont Triad Partnership, which is the main organization that looks to recruit and retain businesses across the region. And Kelly says there’s a lot here that many people have yet to notice.

“I think what's important is understanding who this region is,” Kelly said. “We've done some work recently and we have 75 headquartered companies in this region.”

See the effect that having a headquarters has in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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