Charlotte's least-known building boom

Plus: New broadcast hub at WCNC; Carowinds buys land; Paddleboard yoga on Lake Wylie

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Warehouses and logistics sound boring, but they deliver your packages and are surging in jobs and construction

In your neighborhood, you’ve probably seen the UPS drivers, the guys in the unmarked white trucks and the Amazon packages piling up.

All that stuff has to come from somewhere, and often it comes from nearby, as companies that ship products look for ways to cut costs by mastering their supply chains.

Warehousing and distribution is not one of the sexier industries in town — at least compared with cutting-edge tech jobs and high finance and dog-friendly craft breweries with yoga classes. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of Charlotte’s economy.

Nonetheless, it’s a big and important local industry that connects us with all the products we want. And it, too, is growing like crazy. Consider:

  • A report this week from the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance found that the Charlotte region’s job growth in the “transportation and logistics” sector rose faster in the last year than in higher-profile industries including tech, financial services and healthcare. About 166,000 people locally work in transportation and logistics and related industries.

  • According to a recent report by commercial real-estate broker Cushman & Wakefield, the Charlotte region has more than 6.6 million s.f. of industrial warehouse space under construction — “the highest square footage of buildings under construction in Charlotte’s history.” That’s the equivalent of about four times the leasable space available at SouthPark mall.

It’s a vital sector, says Brett Gray, managing principal of Cushman’s Charlotte office, in an interview with the Ledger:

It’s about getting all the supplies that we all use, whether it’s food, products, goods, anything that we all touch has to come through some sort of supply chain to get to its destination. Restaurants, department stores, malls, really everything is coming through and being imported from out of the country or being manufactured within the country and relocated to the final destination close to where the buyers are.

Background: For years, Charlotte has been strong in warehousing, distribution and logistics. Near the crossroads of two major interstates, Charlotte is within a 12-hour drive of 53% of the U.S. population, according to the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance. A major airport and quick access to the Port of Charleston are also plusses.

We all know the office market is hot. Apartment construction is booming. But warehouses – well, they might be less visible, but the market for them is sizzling, too. A lot of it today has to do with the boom in e-commerce.

Most warehouse space in the Charlotte region is in southwest Charlotte — in the Westinghouse Boulevard area — but areas farther out are gaining ground. (Source: Cushman & Wakefield)

According to Gray and to Cushman’s research:

  • The region’s most dominant warehouse district has traditionally been southwest Charlotte, around Westinghouse Boulevard. It’s still the biggest, but other areas of the region are gaining ground.

  • York and Cabarrus counties have each leased more than 1 million s.f. in the last year — far more than any other areas in the region. Gray says that’s to be expected as land prices in Charlotte rise: “We are starting to see this sprawl go to areas like Concord and York County and all over.”

  • This quarter, the biggest warehouse project expected to be completed is the 855,000 s.f. Amazon distribution center in west Charlotte — the Biz Journal had a nice photo spread this week of the inside of that building, if you’re into that kind of thing. The next two biggest are in Cabarrus and York counties.

  • All the warehouse construction in the region is bringing some balance back into the market. Potential tenants have more options. Before, “it was five tenants fighting for that one option,” Gray said. And you thought the supply of Charlotte houses was tight.

Companies, Gray says, are looking at improving their supply chains to save on costs: “They view the supply chain as a competitive advantage. There is cost savings if you do it right.”

And doing it right is leading to one of the most unheralded building booms in Charlotte right now.

New broadcast hub for Charlotte + 60 jobs

Charlotte has an airport hub, Lowe’s is building a tech hub and now a company says it is building a new broadcast technology hub here.

Tegna, the parent company of Charlotte NBC affiliate WCNC, tells the Ledger that it’s constructing a hub at the station and that it will have a staff of 60 people.

The company owns and operates 49 stations in 41 markets and recently announced it’s adding 13 more stations in 10 markets. “This new hub will enable us to provide broadcast technology support to these new stations and some of our current operations,” spokeswoman Anne Bentley said in an email.

It is expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Trend: Media organizations are consolidating and are taking advantage of technology to centralize jobs that were once spread out widely.

N.C. liquor follies

Mecklenburg commissioners this week approved a purely symbolic resolution saying they oppose modernizing the state’s alcohol laws, Charlotte Agenda reports this morning. Commissioners would prefer to stick with North Carolina’s one-of-a-kind hodgepodge system of state and local regulation that dates to the 1930s. Monopolists love monopolies.

The General Assembly is considering a sweeping bill that would allow liquor sales in grocery stores — not exactly a crazy idea, if you have been to other states. It is far from certain the bill will pass, even though polls show it’s popular and retailers back it.

In N.C., only ABC stores can sell whisky and demon rum.

For some background reading on this hot topic, you might enjoy a Ledger piece from March examining the issue: “Why liquor from the ABC store costs so much.”

In brief

  • Carowinds land deal: Carowinds has bought a 7.5-acre parcel that fronts Carowinds Boulevard near its Camp Wilderness campground. County records show the land, which is wooded and next to a creek, was bought in June for $1.1M. Carowinds spokeswoman Lisa Stryker told the Ledger that Carowinds parent Cedar Fair “commonly purchases land adjacent to its parks to keep options open for future planning. There are no current plans for the land recently purchased near Carowinds.”

  • McClatchy shrinks: In 2Q earnings announced Thursday, the parent company of the Observer said revenues and expenses were down. Ad revenue: -20%. Subscription revenue: -5%. Employee compensation: -21%. Execs said digital subscriptions are up and that “we continue to be strategic and resolved in taking costs out of the business while making key investments to boost revenue generation.”

  • Tech money: Charlotte tech startup Stratifyd raised $10M in new debt financing. The company uses artificial intelligence in data analytics. Its headquarters is in (you guessed it) South End. (WRAL TechWire)

  • Jobs from Latvia: Printful, a Latvian printing and shipping company, says it plans to hire 100 workers as it opens a location in Steele Creek. (Observer)

  • Going Green(e): Frontier Airlines is offering free flights on Tuesday for anybody with the last name “Green” or “Greene.” Really.

  • Major-league baseball expansion unlikely: There are “five MLB teams with unsettled ballpark situations,” and until those are resolved, “don’t expect to hear any talk of expansion from MLB.” (Ballpark Digest) Charlotte is often mentioned as a possible expansion contender.

  • Beating the odds: Former Wells Fargo CPA starts data analytics company that helps you beat the odds on scratch-off lottery tickets: “The information is useful for those who are more committed to their lottery gameplay.” (Agenda)

  • New fitness trend?Om Yoga, located in Fort Mill, now offers Lake Wylie’s first full-service, instructional stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga classes. … After a lolling savasana (or corpse pose) atop the lake water, we navigated to shore, officially closing our practice with a group high-five and a cold beverage, mine of course being coconut water to nurse my hangover.” (Queen City Nerve)

Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

  • Last call: Chick-fil-A’s peach milkshakes will be going away soon. They’ll disappear for the season by the end of August — perhaps earlier if restaurants run out of ingredients.

  • Breakfast bonanza: Snooze AM Eatery, a popular breakfast chain, is opening a second Charlotte location: in South End in the former Owen’s Bagels spot off South Boulevard. (Team coverage: Agenda, Charlotte magazine, CharlotteFive, Biz Journal)

  • Cheers but can’t cook: A former Panthers cheerleader appears on Food Network’s “Worst Cooks in America.”: “I know I’m a bad cook, but I was about to show the world what a bad cook I am.” (Charlotte magazine)

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The Charlotte Ledger is an e-newsletter and web site publishing timely, informative, and interesting local business news and analysis Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, except holidays and as noted. We strive for fairness and accuracy and will correct all known errors. The content reflects the independent editorial judgment of The Charlotte Ledger. Any advertising, paid marketing, or sponsored content will be clearly labeled.

The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.