A regional task force has launched a five-year, $5 million strategy that it says could generate 100,000 new jobs and increase employment in the 13-county region.

The strategy, called “Staying on Top: Winning the Job Wars of the Future,” involves dozens of organizations, from area chambers of commerce to local universities, collectively called “institutional partners.” They are collaborating to implement 30 actions outlined in the strategy to support the growth of key emerging “clusters,” interconnected businesses and support organizations.

Leaders say the goal is to spark business investment in high-growth industries that will create high-paying jobs in the coming decades, as visionaries have done in decades past.

“In the 1950s, a group of innovative leaders conceived the idea of the Research Triangle Park (RTP), an idea that changed the economic course of the region,” said former Gov. James Hunt, who chaired the 37-member CEO-level task force that developed the action plan. “Today, we face intense global competition for new jobs and investment. There will be regions of the world that win — and regions that lose. We intend to win. We believe we can improve our chance for economic success through collaboration, education, innovation and action.”

The “Staying on Top” initiative grew from the findings of a 2001 study by Harvard University economist Michael Porter, who conducted an analysis of the Research Triangle Region. In his report, “Clusters of Innovation,” Porter concluded that the region required a “21st-century economic vision” to remain competitive.

The task force of business and higher education leaders used Porter’s study and new research to create a vision and action plan for the region. The action plan calls for institutional partners to pursue strategies in five areas:

  • Promote the growth of industry clusters where the region has a competitive advantage.

  • Use a balanced approach of targeted recruitment, global branding, business creation and existing business retention.

  • Integrate higher education into economic development efforts.
    Develop creative, inclusive approaches to rural prosperity.

  • Create agile leadership networks to respond to market challenges, changes and opportunities.
  • “This plan recognizes the key role that our research universities play in economic development,” said University of North Carolina President Molly Broad, who serves on the executive committee of the national Council on Competitiveness, which commissioned the Porter study. “The research and development capacity and the collaboration among our universities, corporations and government labs make the Research Triangle Region a leader in technologies that will shape our world. We intend to capitalize on these important assets to ensure our economic future.”

    The “Staying on Top” initiative will focus on developing industry clusters around eight technology areas, chosen because the region is a leader in their research and development and for their potential to create significant numbers of new jobs. The eight areas are pharmaceuticals, biological agents and infectious diseases, agricultural biotechnology, pervasive computing, advanced medical care, analytical instrumentation, nanoscale technologies, and informatics

    In addition, officials say the strategy will focus on expanding the Research Triangle Region’s component parts and logistics and distribution clusters because of their continued value in creating jobs for more rural parts of the region.

    “This initiative represents the unprecedented alignment and collaboration of business, academic and economic development players across our region,” said Charles Hayes, president and CEO of Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP), which facilitated the work of the task force and will lead its implementation. “We have aligned organizational agendas, made political boundaries transparent and focused on improving our future. We invite all to join as partners, to help improve the quality of life and standard of living for all citizens of the Research Triangle Region.”

    RTRP is a public/private partnership that promotes economic development for the 13-county region of North Carolina comprising Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake and Warren counties.

    RTRP: www.researchtriangle.org

    Research Triangle Region: www.researchtriangleregion.org

    Council on Competitiveness: www.compete.org