By Jim Hunt, special to Local Tech Wire

Editor’s note: Former N.C. Governor Jim Hunt, a driving force behind the launch of MCNC and the building of the , delivered the opening address at the 25th anniversary of NCREN last week in a two-day event at SAS.

More than 300 people attended the NCREN “Community Celebration” event. Local Tech Wire is publishing his remarks in three parts. Part Two is today.

CARY, N.C. – North Carolina Information Highway 1993

The N.C. Information Highway deployed in 1993 was the impetus to allow MCNC and its NCREN network to expand across the state to all our public university and some private university campuses.

Many other initiatives were undertaken – and are not mentioned here.

All of these have had success…some have had fits and starts as we say on the farm. But the early vision of North Carolina state leaders has seen the maturing of those initiatives. They are very strategic in helping us achieve our economic and quality-of-life objectives that are important to us in North Carolina and certainly to our nation and to our world.

Let’s get back to MCNC.

MCNC 1980, NCREN 1984
Today we are here to talk about MCNC and the tremendous impact it has had on the economy and the well-being of our citizens and the state’s educational and business institutions. Our economic success does begin with education.

We began MCNC in 1980 as an economic development and research innovation center in the Semi-Conductor Industry. The number of patents produced, the company’s incubated tell only part of the story. What MCNC did was allow us to attract great companies and great researchers in the semi-conductor field to North Carolina. It allowed us to better retain the great minds in technology innovation that were graduating from NC State, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke and our other great institutions.

MCNC’s research mission also allowed us another great legacy. Through the acquisition of Cronos by JDS Uniphase, the citizens of North Carolina were rewarded for the investments made in MCNC. The money to begin the Rural Internet Access Authority which today is eNC came from that sale of Cronos. The funding for the NC IDEA fund which provides grants and management expertise to innovative start-up companies came from that sale of Cronos.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the sale of Cronos was the further building out and the sustaining of the North Carolina Research and Education Network. NCREN serves as the foundation that facilitates and advances research and education in our state. NCREN is the high speed communications backbone that connects our great academic and research minds to each other in the State and allows the world to benefit from the great minds of North Carolina.

NCREN is the platform by which education across our state becomes more equitable allowing a student in Murphy, Manteo and Durham to access the same coursework. More than $60 million dollars has gone from the endowment to the building out of the network and other resources necessary to develop the higher education network and now add all the schools and community colleges.

NCREN operates today without direct state appropriation—it receives payment for the operational services it provides for our great education institutions from the grade school to the med school. NCREN utilizes the endowment from the sale of Cronos to fund the capital upgrades necessary for the network. North Carolina is the only state in country not to have to directly fund its network. Imagine that! What a Return on Investment from our initial $40 million to start MCNC!

The history of NCREN is one of innovative firsts and world class operation:

Part Three: Building on NCREN backbone

Get the latest news alerts: at Twitter