Carolina on My Mind

Qorvo’s new headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina, brings more high-tech jobs to the Triad

Long-distance relationships are hard. Just ask Qorvo. In 2015, Hillsboro, Oregon-based TriQuint Semiconductor and Greensboro, North Carolina-based RF Micro Devices merged to form Qorvo, a global provider of core technology and radio frequency solutions for mobile, infrastructure, and aerospace/defense applications. The new company, which had combined revenues of $2.1 billion in 2014 before the merger, maintained both headquarters for 19 months but eventually announced it was done being bicoastal. The company decided to put its corporate headquarters in the Tar Heel State and opened its new headquarters there in the summer of 2017.

“After the integration we wanted to simplify how we do business with customers and suppliers through a single headquarters location,” spokesperson Brent Dietz told the Portland Business Journal. The company announced it would invest $25 million to expand its Greensboro headquarters. The project included $19.5 million for a new 150,000-square-foot research and development center near its corporate offices in Greensboro and $5.5 million for new machinery and equipment.

Qorvo also revealed it would add 100 jobs to the payroll, many of them to support a fast-growing mobile products division. The company is a major supplier of radio-frequency systems used in smartphones, wireless infrastructure, and other applications to manufacturers such as Apple. Brandi Frye, vice president of marketing for Qorvo, told the Triad Business Journal in 2017 that the firm had already filled 88 local jobs in engineering and technical support, with another 63 positions in design, test engineering, accounting, human resources, business development, and other corporate functions still to fill. “We are definitely going to go over that 100,” Frye said. The local workforce now numbers about 1,500.

During a period of such rapid growth for Qorvo, collaboration between the company’s facilities team and outside vendors is crucial. Michael R. Herrera, senior vice president of Critical Electric Systems Group (CESG), spoke highly of the ongoing collaboration between CESG and Qorvo. “We’ve been working at the Qorvo facility since 1995—performing services and building special projects,” he said. “The facilities team, directed by Bernie O’Brien, run a world-class operation. Close collaboration has been the key to our successes.”

Landmark Builders, with offices in Charlotte and Winston-Salem, handled the building expansion, which included site work, shell, an office upfit, and lab upfit. The three-story, conventional steel structure features an exterior skin system that includes brick, arriscraft stone, EIFS, metal panels, and storefront glazing with curtainwall. Qorvo required a high-tech building to mitigate vibration, along with complex mechanical and electrical systems to support 35,000 square feet of electronics laboratory space that requires sophisticated humidity and static electricity control systems. The building’s lobby atrium features a three-story monumental stair with glass rails and epoxy terrazzo stair tread panels.

Qorvo first moved its mobile design unit into the new building, followed by another 300 or so employees from other Qorvo offices in the Triad area. In addition, workers at a plant in Apopka, Florida, were relocated to Greensboro. This division makes surface acoustic wave filters that are used in cell phones. “We make more filters in phones now to filter out all that noise and get you a clearer signal,” Frye said.

The company’s expansion was fueled by more than $544,000 in incentives that were approved by the Greensboro City Council. The council was in turn helped by a performance-based grant of up to $500,000 from the One North Carolina Fund, which provides financial assistance to support local governments in their efforts to attract economic development and create jobs. Under the terms of the grant, companies receive no money up front and must meet job creation and capital investment targets to qualify. The project also benefited from the involvement of the City of Greensboro, Greensboro Partnership, High Point Economic Development Corporation, Guilford County, Guilford County Workforce Development Board, Guilford Tech Community College, NC A&T University, UNC Greensboro, Duke Energy, and Piedmont Natural Gas.

Brent Christensen, president and CEO of the Greensboro Partnership, told the Triad Business Journal that there was stiff competition with Oregon to win the new headquarters because the Oregon location was shovel-ready at the time, while the Greensboro location still needed to be cleared, graded, and improved. The incentives were crucial, he said, to make up for real or perceived deficiencies between locations. There were significantly more costs to develop in Greensboro than there are in Oregon, he said.

But officials hope those incentives will pay off, in the form of new, highly skilled tech jobs that boast average salaries of $80,000 per year, almost twice Guilford County’s overall average annual wage of about $43,000. Qorvo also has an internship program with North Carolina A&T State University, which is a source of potential employees for the R&D center, Christensen added.

“We appreciate the outstanding support provided by the state of North Carolina as Qorvo builds on its technology and product leadership to serve our many global customers,” said Qorvo President and CEO Bob Bruggeworth. “North Carolina offers an excellent economic climate for growth and innovation as we continue to expand here and in our other locations.”