An Ideal Destination

City of Burlington

Our family, like all locals, knew that the centrally located community was not to be missed; a pioneer in outlet shopping and home to a plethora of outdoor and indoor retail centers, Burlington, NC has long been one of the state’s prime shopping destinations.

Once a booming textile center, Burlington cleverly transitioned into a shopping mecca when the mills emptied out. Today, the community continues to encourage retail growth. “We have an abundance of retail development,” says Joey Lea, who is in charge of Zoning and Subdivisions. North Carolina’s original outlet mall, Burlington Outlet Village, is right off the interstate, as are the open air malls Alamance Crossing and University Commons. In addition, an enclosed mall has just been revitalized, and business has skyrocketed in response. Tanger Outlets are just ten minutes away from downtown Burlington, in an adjacent community. “If you are visiting here, if you live here, if you do business here, it’s great shopping and it is right on our doorstop,” Senior Planner Daniel Shoffner summarizes.

Burlington’s location makes it an ideal destination for retail businesses – and much more. “Our location is one of our best assets,” Mr. Shoffner insists. The city enjoys a prime spot directly between two of the state’s largest urban centers: the Triad, which includes Greensboro, Winston Salem, and High Point; and the Triangle, which includes Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. “That [location creates] a big draw for people to live here and bring business here because we are so close to such a large market,” says Mr. Shoffner. Furthermore, while the community of 52,000 enjoys the benefits of being relatively close to two major urban centers, the city escapes all of the hassle. Perhaps most importantly, “you don’t have to deal with the traffic.”

Transportation to and from the centrally located city is a snap. Interstates 40 and 85 cut right through the community, creating a lucrative corridor for businesses and easy access for motorists. Amtrak also makes stops in Burlington six times a day. In addition, the city boasts an airport that “is growing rapidly and doing very well financially,” reports Amy Nelson, Burlington’s Director of Planning / Economic Development.

Burlington-Alamance County Regional Airport is a general aviation airport targeting small planes and corporate jets. Travelers on these types of aircraft “like to go in and out of a place that is convenient and quick,” Mr. Shoffner, who is a pilot himself, explains. Burlington provides this quick and easy access because of its location. “It would be a prime executive airport to serve the Triangle or the Triad, being right in between the two.” The airport also enjoys easy access to the goods and services that pilots and travelers need, from rental cars and catering to comfortable pilot lounges.

An increasing number of busy executives are discovering that the airport is an attractive alternative to Greensboro’s and Raleigh’s more heavily trafficked ones. As a result, Burlington-Alamance County Regional Airport is one of the busiest general aviation airports in the state. In response to this escalating demand, the airport has recently undergone an expansion to extend the runway from 5,000 feet to 6,405 feet, enabling the facility to accommodate 737s. “And there are long range plans to get it up to 7,200 feet,” Mr. Shoffner adds. There is also a plan to purchase additional land in order to build a new terminal.

Burlington-Alamance County Regional Airport is getting so much attention that Honda Aero, Inc. has established its corporate headquarters and jet engine manufacturing operations there, with the construction of an all-new facility adjacent to the airport. “There are also long range plans to build a taxiway over to the runway and to have a service center there, so that once they get up and running and there is a fleet of [Honda] corporate jets out there, they can come back to Burlington to have their engines serviced,” Mr. Shoffner reports. There is ample land available, so continued expansion is easily viable.

Burlington also boasts several bio-tech companies including LabCorp, which has its world headquarters located in the city, along with several testing facilities. The company is the area’s largest employer, with over 3,000 staff members. In addition, Burlington has a number of service industries and healthcare related businesses, including a hospital as well as a sizable retirement community. Burlington also enjoys easy access to the educational opportunities that the community needs to succeed. “We’ve got a great base for job training whether it be technical, vocational, or professional,” Mr. Shoffner reports.

Elon University, which is located right beside Burlington, is tied for first place among 124 master’s-level universities in the South in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” ranking. And the opportunities don’t stop there. “Within about an hour’s drive there are close to 20 four year colleges and universities,” Mr. Shoffner reports, including highly ranked institutions like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. There are also numerous community colleges within a short driving distance. “We are right in the middle of a lot of educational opportunities.”

Burlington residents also enjoy access to many recreational opportunities. “We have an outstanding park system,” Ms. Nelson reports. These parks support numerous annual tournaments, including baseball, softball, soccer, and tennis. Parkland also extends across several lakes, where residents and visitors enjoy boating, sailing, and fishing. The Haw River also runs through Burlington, creating an ideal opportunity for kayaking. The Mountains – to – Sea Trail, which stretches 1,000 miles from the Smokey Mountains all the way to the Outer Banks, runs along the river, attracting nature hungry tourists. “There are a lot of people who come from out of town to utilize that resource,” Mr. Shoffner says.

Geography also makes a huge positive impact on the quality of life. “A lot of it goes back to our location,” Mr. Shoffner points out. The climate is considered ideal, and both mountains and beaches are relatively accessible. Furthermore, the city enjoys close proximity to all the entertainment, arts, and cultural opportunities found in both the Triad and the Triangle, while still enjoying the laidback lifestyle of small town living.

Burlington is also actively working to improve the city’s amenities, including an increase in sidewalks and green spaces. “We have a very strong development process here,” Mr. Lea reports. “I think that helps not only now, but also in the future, [to improve the] quality of life.” In addition, Burlington’s downtown is undergoing a revitalization and is being rediscovered by many locals. “We are trying to have events there most every weekend,” Mr. Shoffner says. The downtown is also the site of the recently restored historic Paramount Theatre, which is home to a “very active” community theatre group.

With so much to offer, Burlington has recently begun to experience a resurgence in manufacturing. “For the last several years, manufacturing seems to be coming back little by little,” Mr. Lea reports. The city is eager to support its return. “We do have available industrial land that will accommodate any manufacturing facility – small or large,” and Burlington has a growing high tech manufacturing presence. The city also has the water that the industry needs. “I think we can handle any request for water that would come to us,” Ms. Nelson says. “It goes back to the textile heritage and history here,” Mr. Shoffner explains. “The former managers planned to have an adequate water supply because the textile industries were big water users. All that left, but we still have the water.”

The city is currently developing its first Unified Development Ordinance, and will be tailoring it to meet the needs of incoming business. “We are going to try to make it as business friendly, development friendly, as we possibly can,” Ms. Nelson reports. Already a major retail destination, Burlington is doing everything it can to keep that sector strong while simultaneously attracting other industries. “We are happy to work with anybody to try to help them find a place to locate and a good deal,” Ms. Nelson insists. “Burlington is one of the best, friendliest places for them to be.”

December 14, 2017, 10:10 AM EST