(Research Triangle, N.C.) Research Triangle Region employment grew by 15,596 in 2011 following two years of decline, according to the Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP), a business-driven, public-private partnership. The group reports that in addition to the growth, other economic indicators pointed to recovery: 12 of 13 counties gained employment; wages grew 4.8 percent, the largest rise since 2005; and office vacancies declined to 16 percent, from 17 percent the year before.
“Our region’s diverse, innovation-based economy serves our companies and communities well, enabling us to recover and grow much more quickly than other parts of the world,” Charles A. Hayes, president and CEO of the RTRP, told more than 850 business and community leaders at the 2012 State of the Research Triangle Region event May 24, co-hosted by RTRP and Wells Fargo. The region is home to The Research Triangle Park™ (RTP) and Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake and Warren counties.
“Cross-pollination is the key,” Hayes said. “Our region collaborates across clusters, across sectors and across the region like no one else. It sparks innovation that creates new products and services, leads to startups and business expansion, grows jobs for our communities and attracts talent. Bottom line, it makes our economy one of the most vibrant in the world.”
Targeted Clusters Lead Investments
The region’s economic development plan, The Shape of Things to Come, calls for creating 100,000 jobs during 2009-2014 and increasing employment in all 13 counties by nurturing the growth of businesses in 11 targeted clusters related to life sciences and technology.
The strategy is paying off. Eighty-four percent of the $5.15 billion in investments and 58 percent of the 19,781 jobs created July 2009 through March 2012 were in targeted clusters. During 2011, regional companies announced $1.27 billion in investments and 6,611 new jobs, a sign of business confidence. Among the 2011 investments and milestones:
Open source market leader Red Hat announced its move to downtown Raleigh and passed the $1 billion annual revenue mark, a first for an open source company.
Cary-based Epic Games’ Gears of War 3, the first video game developed only for the Xbox 360, surpassed $1 billion in sales.
Galloway Ridge at Fearrington retirement community and continuing care center in Chatham County launched a $102 million renovation and expansion, adding 275 new jobs.
Cisco Systems, the nation’s largest computer networking company, completed a $100 million data center and R&D lab in RTP in Wake County.
Semprius Inc. announced it would locate a $89.7 million high-concentration photovoltaic solar module pilot plant in Vance County, creating 256 jobs.
Medicago U.S.A. began operations at its $42 million vaccine plant in RTP in Durham County with 85 new jobs to produce seasonal and pandemic flu vaccines.
Caterpillar Inc. announced a $28.3 million expansion of its compact, skid-steer loader plant in Lee County with 325 new jobs, and a $33 million expansion with 199 new jobs at its Johnston County small-wheel-loader plant.
CertainTeed Roofing, leading North American manufacturer of asphalt roofing products, announced a $20 million investment and 10 jobs for a new facility in Granville County.
LORD Corp., a diversified technology company that develops breakthrough adhesive, coating and motion management technologies, announced a $20 million investment and 117 new jobs at its global headquarters in Wake County.
Genetics research firm Sequenom announced it will invest $18.7 million in a molecular diagnostics laboratory at the N.C. Biotechnology Center in RTP, creating 242 jobs.
Durham-based Patheon, contract development and manufacturing services provider for 300 of the world’s leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, announced it had signed $18 million in new drug-development contracts.
Shalag US Inc., producer of non-woven fabrics used in hygienic wipes, invested $15.5 million and added 25 jobs at its plant in Granville County.
AKG of America, manufacturer of heat exchanges and cooling solutions, announced a $3.3 million expansion and 76 new jobs at its plant in Orange County.
Triangle North, the network of tax-advantaged industrial parks developed by Franklin, Granville, Vance and Warren counties, began construction on a $2.5 million access road directly from U.S. Highway 401 to the park.
Trident Marketing Inc. completed a $950,000 expansion of its corporate headquarters in Moore County, creating 80 new jobs.
Harnett County’s burgeoning “Highway 421 health care corridor” took major development steps forward with Central Carolina Community College’s ground breaking of its new Health Sciences Building in Brightwater Science and Technology Park. It joins construction of nearby Harnett
Health Central Campus hospital, First Choice Community Health Center, East Carolina School of Dentistry’s facility and Campbell University’s new osteopathic school of medicine.
Novozymes North America, world leader in bio innovation, opened a pilot plant at its North American headquarters in Franklin County to make enzymes necessary to turn biomass into biofuels.
Argand Energy Solutions completed a 500-kilowatt solar array at Glen Raven’s Sunbrella® Yarn Manufacturing Center in Warren County – the largest array installed under Progress Energy’s SunSense® Commercial Solar PV (photovoltaic) program, designed to encourage the use of renewable energy.
Person County Solar Park completed a seven-acre expansion in the Person County Business and Industrial Center next to its existing park, another of Progress Energy’s efforts to increase energy production from renewable sources.
Strategic Initiatives Yield Results
The Shape of Things to Come plan pursues three key strategies: promote business growth in targeted clusters, product development and regional collaboration. Here are some of the results from the past year.
Nanobiotechnology cluster strengthens. The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies ranked the region fourth in the nation for its nanotechnology cluster in 2011. MedCity News attributed North Carolina’s rapid emergence as a nanobio hub to its intentional actions and concentration and cooperation of business, government and academia. The Center of Innovation for Nanobiotechnology hosted key conferences and events to bring regional players together to promote cross-pollination.
Plug-in cluster powers up. The region’s profile rose in advanced transportation, a key segment of its CleanTech cluster, after Electric Power Research Institute tapped it to host Plug-In 2011, the international conference on technical advances, market research and policy initiatives shaping the future of plug-in hybrid and electric transportation, for the first time ever outside of California. Charging stations for electric vehicles began popping up across the region thanks to energy-conscious companies, such as Biogen Idec and Progress Energy.
Air service expands. RDU Airport Authority recruited key new routes in 2011, including nonstop service to San Francisco and Houston, significant destinations for business travelers, and Grand Bahama Island. RDU named a new director and prepared to begin its $68 million Terminal 1 renovation this spring.
RTP master plan approved. Park officials completed a new plan to ensure the park remains a global hotspot and economic driver in coming decades. It calls for expanded opportunities for startups and more densely clustered companies, amenities and nature.
Talent initiative launches. Wake County Economic Development launched a $1 million, five-year campaign and Web portal, Work in The Triangle, Smarter From Any Angle, to showcase the region as a smart place to work, live, learn and play and to attract highly skilled workers in targeted industry clusters.
Air quality initiatives expand. Triangle Air Awareness made its curriculum for K-5 students available at no charge to schools in all 13 counties thanks to a grant from GlaxoSmithKline. The air quality partnership of RTRP and N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources educates the community and promotes practices that improve air quality, a key competitive asset.
Film industry yields impact. Research Triangle Region spending from movie production totaled nearly $4 million in 2011 thanks to Triangle Regional Film Commission efforts to promote the region as a location for movie, television and new media production.
Global brand grows. Developers shared the region’s story extensively in the past year, making presentations on the region’s strategy and Triple Helix approach to innovation to 137 groups and 5,800 people, from the U.S. Congress and Stanford University to Copenhagen, Thailand and points in between. Smart grid media dubbed the region the “new Silicon Valley” in 2011. Delta Sky magazine called it “The Power of Three: 3 universities + 1 Great Idea = Infinite Innovation.”
Joining RTRP and Wells Fargo as sponsors for the 2012 State of the Research Triangle Region were Platinum Sponsors GlaxoSmithKline and PNC and Gold Sponsors Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, Duke Energy, Progress Energy, RTI International and Siemens.
The Research Triangle Regional Partnership leads economic development for the Research Triangle Region. Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.3 trillion in assets.
For more information on the 2012 State of the Research Triangle Region event, contact the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, (919) 840-7372 or email@example.com, or visit www.researchtriangle.org.