Gateway (copy)

The Gateway Building

As it turns out, not one, but two apparel makers with new names, famous labels and shared roots soon will be located on opposite ends of downtown Greensboro.

One week after the international company, Kontoor Brands, traded its stock publicly for the first time and strongly reaffirmed its commitment to Greensboro, another apparel maker made official its plans to expand here.

Centric Brands, which makes clothing and accessories for men, women and children, confirmed Wednesday that it will become the anchor tenant of local developer Andy Zimmerman’s re-imagined Gateway Center.

That means 213 Centric employees will occupy nearly 50,000 feet in Zimmerman’s historic building at 620. S. Elm St., which was once, of all things, a denim manufacturing plant. In fact, as the News & Record’s Richard Barron reported, the jeans label that was made in the old factory was Hudson, a brand Centric owns today.

Centric probably isn’t as recognizable around here as Kontoor, a hometown company which had been known for its Wrangler brand before being spun off last year by its parent, VF Corp. and bringing its sibling brand, Lee, to its Greensboro operation as well.

Kontoor doesn’t merely have a presence in Greensboro; its corporate headquarters is here and it employs 800 locally, 17,000 internationally. (Kontoor also has a historic connection to the Gateway Center: Hudson became Blue Bell which acquired Wrangler before merging with VF Corp.) But Centric, which employs 4,000 overall, has some cachet of its own. It maintains corporate offices in New York’s Empire State Building and includes among its licensed brands Under Armour and Calvin Klein, as well as the Disney and Marvel entertainment properties.

Both companies are the offspring of recent corporate shifts. Kontoor was created in 2018 after VF split from its jeans manufacturers, Wrangler and Lee. The name Centric also was conceived in 2018, when Differential Brands Group acquired a portion of Global Brands Group.

As for Centric’s impact, the jobs here will pay an annual average salary of $54,014, plus benefits. In addition to the jobs themselves are the types of workers who presumably will fill them: creative young professionals that cities crave. Centric also gives the 106,000-square-foot Gateway Center an anchor tenant and validates Zimmerman’s $9 million-plus investment in the building. It may validate Zimmerman’s style as well, which features airy spaces, brick walls, exposed beams and sprawling hardwood floors. Not to mention such amenities as meditation space and a rooftop deck. For its part, the city chipped in $426,000 in incentives, if Centric delivers on both the promised jobs and a $2 million investment in the Gateway Center building.

Gateway Center’s success could, in turn, help spark more development along both South Elm Street and Gate City Boulevard. Already nearby is the Union Square Campus and a mixed-income apartment and townhouse complex is planned for a 3-acre site directly across the street from Gateway. As for Centric and Kontoor, the symmetry is hard to ignore: Kontoor to the north and Centric to the south — along the main drag in the downtown of a city that calls itself Jeansboro.

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