GREENSBORO, N.C. — A year into the coronavirus pandemic, Greensboro business leaders said an economic recovery could be on the horizon.
"The good news is, I think we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic especially when it comes to the business side of things," Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen said, "as we continue to see positive cases and hospitalizations go down we’re seeing businesses starting to recover."
Many of the cities leading industries are hoping customers will return by summer.
"Certainly, we're going to see more leisure travel in the summer," Piedmont Triad International Airport Executive Director Kevin Baker said, "That's pretty clear because those seats are being bought up pretty quickly."
Baker said in April 2020 the number of people flying through PTI reached a low of 75 passengers. The average for that time of year is between 3,000 and 3,200 passengers.
"Thankfully, that’s coming back and especially here over the last month or so it’s coming back quickly and his last few weeks," Baker said, "I'm hopeful for a busy summer with a lot of folks chomping at the bit to get on airplanes and go and take vacations and visit families."
As demand returns, two of the airport's largest employers announced they will hire new workers.
HAECO Americas--one of the largest aircraft repair services--plans to hire between 150 and 200 people as mechanics.
"It’s because a lot of airlines over the last year have had airplanes grounded because they didn’t need them. There weren’t as many people flying and a lot of those airlines took advantage of this downtime to be able to do some maintenance on those airplanes," Baker said.
PTI had about 65 planes sitting on the airport tarmac at one point during the pandemic. Baker said that number smaller now but there are still some waiting to fly.
FedEx Express is adding 350 new jobs to support more daytime flights at PTI. The jobs include part-time, full-time and management positions which are now filled.
"In the case of Fed Ex, obviously a lot more stuff is being shipped to people's homes and to peoples' places of business," Baker said.
Gas station chain Sheetz will hire more than 2,800 people nationwide at a hiring event later this week. Five hundred of those openings will go to employees in North Carolina.
Other economic developments in Greensboro and Guilford County are also tied to the pandemic.
Christensen said construction on the Publix Distribution Center in McLeansville is moving faster than expected.
"It means those jobs get added to our economy quicker than they normally would have and again, that’s part of the way we’re buying our groceries now and it is pandemic related--the changes that the pandemic has brought to e-commerce to buying groceries," Christensen said.
He is hopeful that small businesses will start to feel the effects of recovery soon.
"What we hope is that people will be very intentional about making sure that they’re making their purchases and shopping locally and that they’re eating locally," Christensen said, "As the weather gets better and we can eat outside, we can get out and enjoy our community more and it’ll be very very important for us to make sure that they’re doing their part to support our small businesses as well."