Study blasts past economic clouds, validating vision of research park founders
Published: April 25, 2011
The latest study on economic development that casts North Carolina as among the top three states best poised for economic growth is good news indeed. For Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, it validates the visionary leadership in this community almost 20 years ago that saw the need for a new direction.
The report by the economists at Wells Fargo Securities cites North Carolina's "burgeoning technology sector" as a key reason for its strong position, along with the state's population growth and its ability to attract corporate headquarters, the Journal's Richard Craver reported. The study reported that only Florida was listed above North Carolina as having the best regional advantage for employment in high-growth industries. The state tied with Georgia with each showing a positive advantage with 21 industries studied.
The research team was led by Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo. The bank has a stake in North Carolina's economic growth, but it has more than 6,300 banking locations in 39 states, including 322 Wachovia Bank branches now owned by Wells Fargo. Much of the industry data in the study is from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Financial services were mentioned as a strong growth industry for the state, as well as insurance, professional and technical services, accommodation and food services, health care and social assistance, among others. The researchers noted company expansions in or relocations to Raleigh and Charlotte.
They failed to note the growing force in the state's high-tech industry right here at the Piedmont Triad Research Park. But the report's healthy forecast would not have been possible without the park and similar ventures. The park is home to 56 companies employing about a thousand workers with a total annual payroll, according to the park's website, of more than $50 million.
The foresight by community leaders that led to the creation of the research park as a replacement for declining furniture and apparel manufacturing jobs has not only served the community, but the state as well. It also helped lead to the evolution of Forsyth Tech Community College as a center for training future high-tech workers, also a component of the state's good ranking. FTCC's job-training capabilities helped land the Dell and Caterpillar plants.
The study also mentioned economic development incentives, noting that states must be selective in their use since funding will be limited. "This report is an indication that North Carolina's economic-development strategies are strong," said Tim Crowley, a spokesman for the N.C. Commerce Department.
We know that the key ingredients in North Carolina's growth and attractiveness are its natural resources and its natural beauty and lifestyle. These are things that we are blessed to have, but that we are also called to protect. Responsible growth is the key to our bright future, not just for us, but for future generations.