North Carolina Corporate Site Selection 101

Whalehead Club Currituck County NC

A North Carolina Site Selection Guide for CEOs, Consultants & Small Business Owners

Finding the perfect location for your business requires a combination of research, persistence and luck. Whether you’re crossing the country or just your neighboring state line, there is an obstacle course worth of challenges to overcome.

Here’s one universal truth about relocating or expanding your business: it’s not easy.

But remember, just getting to the point where expansion or relocation is necessary is a sign that your company has done something right. Congratulations. Job well done. Go ahead and share some high fives. Pat yourself on the back.

But don’t gloat for too long, because there’s plenty of work to be done.

Full disclosure: We don’t know who you are.

You could be a California company looking to expand to the East Coast. Maybe you’re an overseas firm thinking about establishing an office in the United States. Or perhaps you’re a small business owner in Virginia or South Carolina interested in “crossing the border” to take advantage of the lowest corporate tax rate in the nation.

SEE ALSO: Five Clues That You Should Change Your Business Location

North Carolina mapThe bottom line is that North Carolina has found its way onto your corporate radar. Maybe it works strategically. Maybe you want to be near the mountains or the beach. Maybe your CEO has a weakness for NC barbecue.

Whatever the reason, you probably have lots of questions. And since they are likely the same questions that businesses around the country and across the globe share, we’d thought we put as many of the answers as we could into one place. These are 7 of the “common denominators” that businesses have identified as deciding factors for new corporate site selection.

Read on and you’ll find helpful information and links specific to doing business in North Carolina.

Our goal is to give you a head start on your selection process so that you can spend less time looking and more time doing.

Click any of the links below to jump to that section.

North Carolina Workforce NC Buildings & Land
NC Workforce Development NC Utilities
NC Transportation & Infrastructure NC Business Incentives
NC Business Taxes  


Building furniture at Built to Last in Currituck County North Carolina

North Carolina Workforce

Yes, technology is advancing at a breakneck pace and industries are evolving every day. But we haven’t reached the point where companies can be completely run by robots. You’ll still need humans to help you, and ideally, those humans will be skilled in the kind of work you need to get done on a daily basis.

Building the best team starts with tapping a well of talented people. The deeper that well, the better. So where are you going to find the best workforce in North Carolina?

That all depends on your business.

Do you need programmers or product engineers? Factory workers or fashion designers? One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to recruiting employees, so where you ultimately land in North Carolina is decided by the local labor pool.

Let’s take a broad look first...

North Carolina is a right-to-work state with a low union membership rate (3% on average over the past decade).

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data puts the NC civilian labor force at approximately 4.6 million, with a participation rate over 60%.

And North Carolina has the largest manufacturing workforce in the Southeast, with 460,000 strong.

If you’re looking for fresh talent, there are two major gold mines for great employees in North Carolina: higher education and the U.S. military.

Hundreds of thousands of students graduate every year from public and private universities. That means hundreds of thousands of educated  and eager job-seekers looking for a great reason to stay in North Carolina.

College of the Albemarle campus

There are 53 colleges and universities in North Carolina.

That includes three Tier 1 research universities — North Carolina State University, Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The University of North Carolina System includes 17 institutions.

The North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) offers some of the most comprehensive and advanced vocational and technical programs in the U.S. More than 800,000 students enroll at one of NCCCS’s 58 campuses each year.

When it comes to veterans, North Carolina has the third-largest active-duty and reserve military population (129,049) in the nation. Companies who relocate to the northeastern part of the state can also draw from another 83,000 active duty military members who live in Hampton Roads, Virginia.

In addition, a 2015 Economic Impact study noted that 78,000 individuals were set to leave the military through 2018. More than 82 percent of them will be 30 years old or younger.

Why hire veterans? There are plenty of great reasons, but proven leadership, creativity under pressure and a dedication to teamwork top the list.

Here are some highlights from a 10-year study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

2014-2024 Employment Projections:  

  • North Carolina is projected to add more than 540,000 jobs by 2024.  
  • The rate of employment growth is projected to outpace growth in the state’s overall population (12.3% vs 10.4%).  
  • Health Care and Social Assistance, NC’s largest industry by employment, is projected to add 135,000 jobs.  
  • Construction is projected to be one of the fastest growing industries in the state, adding nearly 37,000 jobs.  

Healthcare Support Occupations and Healthcare Practitioners and Technical Occupations are projected to be the two fastest growing occupational groups.  

Production Occupations are projected to slightly increase, generating 7,000 jobs.

NCWorks Mobile workforce development

NC Workforce Development

Finding your labor force is only part of the challenge. For many companies, the real struggle is in keeping those workers up to speed with changing technology. Workforce Development is a key component to keeping your business moving forward, but also in helping to enrich the local talent pool.


A free, customized job training and recruiting program for new and expanding businesses. Developed from a partnership between the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) and North Carolina’s Department of Commerce .

Wings Over Albemarle

Currituck County has a 40,000 square foot training facility and workforce development-oriented facility to house College of the Albemarle’s Aviation Technology, Machining and Graphic Design programs. These programs offer a range of skills to students including FAA Part 147 certification for aviation overhaul, manufacturing, machining, and design skills.

More Resources

North Carolina State Line

NC Transportation & Infrastructure

“Location” may mean everything in the real estate business, but location without transportation is worthless to a company seeking to maximize profits. A company’s profitability is directly linked to how fast and efficiently they can get their products to market.

The focus of every business decision is ultimately to help reduce risk and cut the cost of doing business, so speed matters.

Inbound and outbound transportation (aka freight costs) are some of the biggest costs for many companies. That’s why it’s not surprising that CEOs rank transportation as one of the most important factors during the early stages of a site location search.  

Reliable infrastructure is vital, whether you’re unleashing a fleet of trucks onto the highways every day or just planning the daily commute for a handful of employees.

Good news: North Carolina is centrally located on the eastern seaboard between Virginia and South Carolina. It’s only neighbor to the east is the Atlantic Ocean. Its Mid-Atlantic location makes NC easy to access from points up and down the coast, which keeps freight and delivery expenses down.


Charlotte-Douglas International Airport (CLT) - the 5th busiest airline hub in the nation

Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO)

Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU)

Wilmington International Airport (ILM)

The state also is home to 11 regional airports and more than 100 general aviation facilities.

More Resources

NC Port of Wilmington
Shipping and Ports

North Carolina has two deep-water seaports along Atlantic shipping lines.

Port of Morehead City
  • Container and general cargo operations
  • 42-foot channel and berth depth
  • Direct access to I-40, I-74, I-95, U.S. 17 and U.S. 74
  • Served by CSX

Port of Wilmington
  • General cargo and bulk handling facility
  • 45-foot channel, 38- to 42-foot depth
  • Access to I-95 and I-40 via U.S. 70 and U.S. 17
  • Served by Norfolk Southern
  • The northeast corner of the state (including Currituck County) shares a border with Hampton Roads. This can give companies strategic access to Virginia’s port and transportation infrastructure (while maintaining the corporate economic benefits of a NC address).
Port of Virginia
  • 2.3 million TEUs annual throughput in 2014
  • 22 Suez-class ship-to-shore cranes port-wide
  • 50-foot channels and berths, only US East Coast port with Congressional authorization for 55-foot depth channels
  • Almost 7 miles of on-dock rail track
  • 2 Class I railroads operating on-dock
  • 16 Midwest and Southeast inland points served by rail
  • North Carolina also operates inland terminals in Charlotte and Greensboro.

Rail System

  • North Carolina is home to the largest consolidated rail system in the country. Rail connections extend all the way to the coast, linking the ports to inland markets.
  • More than 3,200 miles of track
  • Service to 22 states in the eastern half of the country
  • More than 20 carriers, including Class 1 carriers CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern, as well as several affiliated railroads and many independently owned carriers


Future interstate 87 in North Carolina

Roads & Highways

North Carolina is home to the second-largest state-owned highway system in the nation, comprised of more than 90,000 miles of road.

Major controlled-access routes include:

  • I-95, the major East Coast interstate linking New England to Florida
  • I-85, connecting North Carolina to the manufacturing heart of the Southeast
  • I-40, spanning the country coast-to-coast from North Carolina to California
  • I-87  is a proposed interstate that would follow a path along current US 64, beginning at I-40 in Raleigh, intersecting with I-95 near Rocky Mount and on to Williamston and then following to US 17 N through Elizabeth City to Norfolk/Hampton Roads, VA. 

More Resources

North Carolina Business taxes

NC Business Taxes

How much of a bite will the state and city or county take out of your business?

Here are the numbers:

North Carolina has a 5.75% individual income tax flat rate

North Carolina has a 3% corporate income tax flat rate (making it the lowest in the country among states that have a corporate income tax).

North Carolina has a 4.75% sales tax

FYI: North Carolina ranks 11th on the Tax Foundation's State Business Tax Climate Index for 2017.

SEE MORE: Tax information for Currituck County

For more specific tax numbers, you'll need to check the website of the city or county you’re interested in.

More Resources

Maple Commerce Park in Currituck County, NC

NC Buildings & Land

Narrowing your search geographically is the easy part. The real challenge comes in the hunt for that perfect building or piece of land.

Should you build or renovate? Buy or lease? So many questions… but most importantly, how do you get started?

Start Here - Your best bet for finding available land or commercial property for sale in North Carolina is to check AccessNC. The statewide service will deliver site details and map locations.

Get Certified - If you have more specific or pressing needs, you can even do a search for available Certified Sites. You get access to a statewide inventory of industrial sites that have undergone a rigorous prequalification process to ensure they are “shovel ready” for immediate development.

Cast a Wide Net - Search Loopnet. The site remains an industry standard when it comes to locating commercial real estate.

Get Specific - Tighten up your search by using specific city and county commercial property listings. Not all listings make it to the bigger online aggregators, especially in more rural areas where large lots of raw land may be “for sale by owner.” The Currituck Commercial Real Estate listings is a great example.

Talk to a Human - Reach out to a local CRE agent. It never hurts to pick up the phone if you have questions about a property or specific area. Any of these sites can get you headed in the right direction.

More Resources

Duke Energy lineman North Carolina utilities

NC Utilities

Power is essential for running a business. You need to find out what’s available, who provides it and how much does it cost.

Let’s talk about cost first...

According to May 2017 numbers from the U.S. Energy Information Administration:

Average Commercial Electricity Cost (cents/kilowatt hr)
8.64 NC vs 10.58 US

Average Industrial Electricity Cost (cents/kilowatt hr)
5.72 NC vs 6.81 US


More than 100 separately organized electric power providers serve nearly 10 million people in North Carolina.

Electric cooperatives

  •  Approximately 1 million North Carolina homes, farms and businesses (approximately 2.5 million people) are served by 26 independent, not-for-profit electric power providers that are owned and governed by their local members.
  • 5 co-ops based in Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina serve border areas in North Carolina.


Investor-owned electric utilities


Duke Energy Carolinas

  • Headquartered in Charlotte.
  • Serves approximately 2.5 million accounts in central and western North Carolina and western South Carolina in a service area of approximately 24,000 square miles.

Duke Energy Progress

  • Wholly-owned subsidiary of Duke Energy.
  • Serves approximately 1.5 million accounts in central and eastern North Carolina, plus an area in and around Asheville and northeastern South Carolina. The total service area is approximately 32,000 square miles.


  • Headquartered in Richmond, VA. Operates in northeastern North Carolina as Dominion North Carolina Power.
  • Serves approximately 120,000 North Carolina accounts. 


Municipal & University-owned systems

  • More than 70 municipally-owned electric systems serve approximately 500,000 North Carolina households and businesses within some city and town limits.
  • Several of our state’s universities serve their campuses with electric facilities that they own and operate within the municipal electric system structure.
  • Most of the municipal and university-owned electric systems are members of ElectriCities, an umbrella non-profit organization that provides its member systems services such as training, member and government relations, communications and emergency assistance. 

SEE MORE: The Alternative Energy Sector in the Mid-Atlantic

Natural gas

Delivered to customers in North Carolina by four local distribution companies (LDCs) and eight municipal systems.

Frontier Energy

Piedmont Natural Gas

PSNC Energy

Renewable & Alternative Energy

If you’re looking for options for renewable and sustainable green energy alternatives, here are some NC sites to point you in the right direction.


Sanctuary Vineyard in Outer Banks, NC

NC Business Incentives

The dictionary definition of “incentive” is “something that motivates or encourages one to do something.” While most economic incentives may not be the key deciding factor of where you locate your business, it can certainly help tip the scales when weighing two similar options.

Here are a handful of business-boosting extras that North Carolina brings to the table for relocating and expanding companies, courtesy of the Economic Development Partnership North Carolina … with links to more information on their website.

Job Development Investment Grant

The JDIG is a performance-based, discretionary incentive program that provides cash grants directly to new and expanding companies to help offset the cost of locating or expanding a facility in the state. The amount is based on a percentage of the personal income tax withholdings associated with the new jobs. Approved companies receive the funds annually, for up to 12 years, following the satisfaction of performance criteria set out in grant agreements.

* Recent deals include window and door manufacturer Jeld-Wen Inc., which will qualify for up to $2.4 million for a new headquarters project in Charlotte

One North Carolina Fund

A discretionary cash-grant program with awards based on the number of jobs created, level of investment, location of the project, economic impact of the project and the importance of the project to the state and region.

* Recent awards include $100,000 to textile maker Norafin Americas, who selected Mills River for its first U.S. manufacturing facility; and $180,000 for Belgium-based Lotus Bakeries to open its first U.S manufacturing operation in Mebane.

Other Infrastructure Grants

Community Development Block Grants  - Money awarded to local government for public infrastructure development.

Utility Account  - Infrastructure and utility improvement grants for local government in Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties in the state.

Rural Division, Economic Infrastructure Program - Provides grants to local governments to assist with public infrastructure projects that lead to the creation of new, full-time jobs.

Rural Division, Building Reuse Program - Provides grants to local government for renovation of vacant buildings; renovation or expansion of a building occupied by an existing North Carolina company wishing to expand in its current location; and renovation, expansion or construction of health care entities.

N.C. Departments of Commerce and Transportation, Joint Economic Development Program - Provides transportation improvements and infrastructure that expedites industrial/commercial growth and provides new jobs or job retention.

North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Industrial Access Program - Uses state funds to assist in constructing or refurbishing railroad spur tracks required by a new or expanding industry to encourage economic development.

Tax Credits & Exemptions 

Data Centers Sales & Use Tax Exemptions - Exemptions are available for qualifying data centers, eligible internet data centers and computer software at data centers.

Historic Preservation Tax Credit - Available for the rehabilitation of income-producing historic properties and owner-occupied historic residences.

Manufacturing - Sales and use tax exemptions for manufacturing machinery and equipment; electricity, fuel and natural gas for manufacturing facilities, raw material for manufacturing, and inventories.

Pollution Control and Abatement & Recycling - Property tax exclusions on pollution control and abatement equipment and recycling. It also offers a sales and use exemption for pollution control and abatement equipment.

Foreign Trade Zones

North Carolina has four general-purpose FTZs and eighteen active subzones approved for use by individual companies. In addition, three of the zones have successfully transitioned to the Alternative Site Framework (ASF).

N.C. Biotechnology Center, Economic Development Award

Performance-based grants awarded to local government in support of life science company projects. Awards are made in amounts of up to $100,000 per project based on project job-creation estimates.


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