Alamance County was founded in 1849 and the City of Graham was established as the county seat. However, county history pre-dates the American Revolutionary War when, in 1771, local militia prevailed in armed resistance against British taxation at ‘The Battle of Alamance’. Today, the site, located approximately 5 miles south of the interstates along NC 62 (Alamance Road), is a state historic site and is open to the public.
Local life and the economy was agriculture based until well after the Civil War when textile manufacturing began to migrate here. Many textile firms set up in Alamance County along the Haw River taking advantage of its water and water power. The story of life and the textile economy in those early years is provided in a “living textile mill village” (including a textile museum) located in the Glencoe community along the Haw River north of Burlington.
Textiles (and tobacco) grew to become the foundations of the local economy. Burlington Industries was founded here in the early 1900s and, over the next 100 years, became the largest textile company in the world. At the height of the industry’s dominance, Alamance County was the “hosiery capital” of the world as most of the manufacturers and most of those employed were textile manufacturing or related. However, at the beginning of this century, as the “global economy” became more prevalent, much of the legacy textile industry disappeared including Burlington Industries. However, many other textile firms adapted and changed including another local, family-owned company known as Glen Raven. Glen Raven was founded by the Gant family in 1881 and remains a growing, global, family-owned business today. An early innovation of Glen Raven was panty-hose. Today, one of their signature products is a specialty engineered fabric called ‘Sunbrella’.
In the 1830s, to encourage more economic development across the state, the North Carolina state legislature authorized the building of a railroad to cross the state (east-to-west) from Goldsboro to Charlotte. Alamance County leaders worked to get the railroad routed through the county; and, in 1854, a site about halfway along the corridor was chosen for a repair and maintenance facility. That site was called Company Shops which, today, is the City of Burlington. A history of the NC Railroad, Company Shops, and its influence on Alamance County can be seen at the Burlington train station.
Another transformative development occurred in the 1940s when Fairchild Industries located an aircraft factory in Burlington. Eventually, that facility was taken over by Western Electric which brought electronics manufacturing and a wave of new people to the area with new skills to help further diversify life and the economy.
As life and the economy in Alamance County was influenced, in its early history, from its location on the river and railroad, its modern life and economic history are influenced by its location on interstates and near airports. Alamance is located in north-central North Carolina halfway between (and under an hour from) two larger metro regions – the famed Research Triangle (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) to the east and the Piedmont Triad (Greensboro-High Point-Winston-Salem) to the west. Alamance is connected to both regions by two interstates, 85 & 40, which run concurrently through the county. Each metro also has a major commercial airport connecting Alamance to the nation and the world. Given this proximity and connectivity to modern interstates and airports, Alamance County has adopted a marketing brand name: THE CAROLINA CORRIDOR.
Today, Alamance County enjoys a more diverse economy, which still includes textile manufacturing and agriculture (including four wineries), but also includes advanced manufacturing, healthcare, retail, government, warehousing and distribution, and education. The county’s largest private sector employer is LabCorp, one of the largest medical testing companies in the world, which was founded here by a local entrepreneur, Dr. Jim Powell. Elon University and Alamance Regional Medical Center are each undergoing major growth initiatives and the corporate base continues to diversify as more businesses locate in THE CAROLINA CORRIDOR.
Proximity to the two neighboring metro areas and a more diversified local economy fueled recent population and housing growth which, in turn, resulted in a surge in new retail development all of which continue to change the life and economy of Alamance County.