North Carolina has been gathering economic momentum for a number of years now and is finally receiving the plaudits it has deserved for some time regarding its economic strength and pro-business climate. The Tar Heel State is a place where many companies, both large and small in size thrive for an abundance of reasons.

The state of North Carolina, Secretary of State, and Business Registration Division provide a wide range of incentives, grants, business development programs, capital investment schemes, access to loans, and state tax incentives to businesses.

If you register a new company in North Carolina, you can join the hundreds of thousands of others that are benefiting from the several useful programs on offer to startups and entrepreneurs, such as SCORE North Carolina, North Carolina SBA, North Carolina SBDTC, and North Carolina Department of Commerce to name just a few. The links to these resources can be located at the bottom of this page.

Some of the most talented entrepreneurs have made their way to North Carolina to start or move pre-existing businesses to the state for many reasons. The Tar Heel State is in a brilliant location for business and exportation, with access to the state via land, sea, and air, with the addition of being in close proximity to some huge consumer markets in the form of surrounding cities and states, which is probably why there are so many small businesses currently thriving within the state (over 934,000).

Economic facts about North Carolina

The state also has a greater share of small businesses than most other states. Many states rely heavily on much larger businesses with 500 or more employees to make up the majority of their employees, which demonstrates why North Carolina is a very pro-small business state.

North Carolina is still home to many larger international companies and franchises, which in return contribute vastly to the state’s impressive economic strength.

What is the Largest Employer in North Carolina?

Here is a list of the 10 largest companies in North Carolina:

  • Compass Group USA
  • Lowe’s
  • Bank of America
  • Total
  • State of North Carolina
  • Advance Auto Parts
  • VF
  • Hanesbrands
  • Food Lion
  • Quintiles Transnational

Many people are deciding to call North Carolina their new home, and subsequent place of work and business for many reasons, with contributing factors including education, economic opportunity, job growth, employment rates, and fiscal stability.

Your classic facts about North Carolina include stunning mountain ranges, expansive rivers and lakes, unique towns and cities, and an awesome culture with many amazing locals, which makes North Carolina a popular and attractive place to live in the United States.

Here are some additional economic facts about North Carolina

  • Ranked in the top 5 best states for business for the past 12 years! (Ranked #1 in 2017, 2018, & 2019 by Forbes)
  • The state’s GDP is over $586 billion, making it the 11th largest in the U.S.
  • The largest contributors to the state’s GDP are the finance, insurance, and real estate sector, and the manufacturing sector. (representing 38% of GDP).
  • North Carolina’s economy is ranked 13th in the United States according to US News & World Report.
  • 2018 witnessed North Carolina generate over $11.1 billion in agricultural cash receipts!
  • The Median income in North Carolina is around $28,000.
  • North Carolina ranks 11th under economic health (WalletHub 2019).
  • North Carolina also ranks 13th in economic growth (US News & World Report).
  • North Carolina has a progressive income tax rate of 5.25%.
  • The minimum wage in North Carolina is $7.25 per hour.
  • Raleigh, NC is one of the top ten most recession-proof cities in the U.S. and is regularly cited as one of the best cities to live in.
  • Raleigh has won many awards and received accolades related to its business environment. In 2021, the city has been rated as the 5th best-performing economy in the U.S. and was ranked 3rd in the Happiest Cities in America poll.
  • 42.4% of the state has been college-educated.
  • There are four international airports located within the state.
  • North Carolina’s GDP growth rate between 2014-2019 was 2.3%.
  • The state’s population is almost 10.5 million, and the growth rate is 1.1%.
  • North Carolina’s corporate income tax rate is the lowest rate in the United States at 2.5% (this doesn’t include the states with no corporate income tax).
  • North Carolina’s employment growth rate between 2013-2018 was 2.2%.

Business Facts About North Carolina

It is clear to see that North Carolina offers its entrepreneurs, aspiring entrepreneurs, and employees alike plenty with regard to business resources and help. Creating the perfect environment for businesses to thrive in, which is rather evident in the state’s pro-business approach.

Despite already having a stable economy, North Carolina’s economy is continuously growing with small businesses driving this growth. Small businesses in North Carolina account for almost 3% (2.95%) of all U.S. small businesses.

These small businesses (and large businesses) thrive within the state due to access to business resources, capital investments, free advisories, and the state’s access to large consumer markets.

Economic facts about North Carolina

Here Are Some Business Facts About North Carolina

  • North Carolina is home to an incredibly diverse and skilled labor market.
  • The sales tax rate in North Carolina is 4.75%.
  • Raleigh is the best city in the U.S. for “STEM” workers (Wallethub).
  • North Carolina is home to 13 Fortune 500 companies.
  • North Carolina’s largest sector by employment is Health Care and Social Assistance at nearly 620,000 jobs, followed by Retail Trade at over 500,000 jobs. Manufacturing is third at about 475,000 jobs.
  • There are over 934,000 small businesses in North Carolina.
  • These small businesses have over 1.7 million small business employees.
  • Small businesses account for 99.6% of North Carolina’s total businesses.
  • Small business employees make up 45.3% of North Carolina’s total employees.

What are 3 Major Industries in North Carolina?

There are many major industries within North Carolina that are booming under the current climate, and contributing tremendously to the state’s already powerful economy. Here are 3 major industries in North Carolina:

  • Aerospace: For the longest time, North Carolina has had the motto “first in flight” on most of its residents’ number plates. So, it should come as little surprise to see that leading aerospace, defense, and security companies are booming in North Carolina. The Tar Heel State is home to some powerhouses such as Honda Jet, GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, and UTC Aerospace Systems.
  • Biotech & Pharmaceutical: North Carolina is home to the largest research park in the entire nation, the state also has three Tier 1 research universities! Over time, the state has gained quite a reputation in this industry, which has resulted in companies like Novo Nordisk, Merck, and GlaxoSmithKline setting up shop within the state.
  • Financial & Business Services: North Carolina is the third-largest financial center in the entire nation, which is why companies such as AT&T, Bank of America, Microsoft, and Wells Fargo use the state to operate in, taking advantage of the clearly talented workforce.

Doing business, and successfully conducting business anywhere can, and will often pose a challenge. With many different rules and regulations you must follow, statewide, and on a national scale, especially somewhere with the business acumen of North Carolina, making the state a competitive environment for those seeking success.

However, adversity and competition bring out the best in us, and that is exactly what is happening in North Carolina with the state’s businesses currently thriving within the Tar Heel State.

Resources for North Carolina’s economy and business climate

Business and economic support programs

Additional resources