By RICK SMITH, Local Tech Wire editor

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – The state of business growth in the Triangle area is still promising despite a global recession that cost the region more than 46,000 jobs last year, says Charles Hayes, chief executive officer of the

Economic developers in the Triangle region are pursuing 58 companies that are looking to invest nearly $3 billion and create some 13,000 jobs, Hayes said.

While talks about economic development projects are kept very quiet, members of the N.C. General Assembly this week pushed for tax incentives that could land several new projects. On the possible list are two data centers similar to projects North Carolina won from Google and Apple.

The list of potential projects has grown substantially since January when Hayes told Local Tech Wire and WRAL.com that recruiters were on the trail of 45 projects worth some $1.4 billion and possibly creating 10,000 jobs.

“Again, we have a good pipeline,” he said that that time.

At the group’s annual state of the Triangle event on Thursday morning, Hayes spelled out in detail the good and the bad news of the past year. As LTW reported earlier, the counties that make up the regional economic partnership posted what the partnership describes as a record $1.9 billion, based on its tracking data, in new investment announcements in 2009 despite the recession.

“The employment decline was a big hit,” Hayes told attendees. “There is no way to sugar coat it.”

However, he noted that the huge loss of jobs was offset in part by the expansion and recruitment agreements that could lead to 10,000 new jobs.

“The difference for our region is that, even during this time of global recession, a record number of companies are choosing to invest here to build their future,” Hayes reported. “We’re encouraged by the diversity of companies announcing expansion plans and delighted at the prospect of new jobs being created for our citizens.”

In January, Hayes told LTW that he was surprised by the success the region made in 2009.

“It shocked me,” Hayes said of the report prepared by his staff in an interview with Local Tech Wire and WRAL.com. “In fact, I asked them to do it again because I didn’t believe them!”

The 13 counties making up the partnership include: Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake and Warren.

Investments and expansions noted by Hayes in his report included:

• EMC Corp planning a $280 million construction of a new research facility and data center in Durham County, adding nearly 300 jobs, as well as adding 100 new jobs at its manufacturing plant in Wake County.

• IEM, an international risk management and disaster modeling consulting company, moving its global headquarters from Louisiana to RTP in Durham County, creating 430 jobs over the next six years.

• Palziv North America, a developer and manufacturer of thermoplastic cross-linked polyethylene foam for consumer and industrial uses, purchased a plant in Franklin County formerly used for traditional manufacturing. It is investing nearly $8 million to renovate the space for manufacturing operation and new North American headquarters, creating 80 to 100 jobs.

• Talecris Biotherapeutics plans a $269 million expansion of its manufacturing plant in Johnston County, creating more than 250 jobs.

• Carl Zeiss Optronics USA, the Germany-based global provider of optical and optronic products and services for defense and security uses. Is establishing a U.S. headquarters in Wake County.

Other projects Hayes cited in January:

• SAS, Wake County, $70 million expansion.

• Shalag Industries, Granville County, $17 million new investment, 72 jobs.

• Deutsche Bank Global Technology, Wake County, $6.7 million new investment, 319 jobs.

• North American Aerodynamics Inc., Person County, $900,000 expansion, 375 jobs.

Hayes pointed out that a big portion of the $1.9 billion figure is a $700 million plan by Duke’s medical system for a massive expansion.

Hayes also noted that 2010 is off to a strong start with several announcements made for expansion or new business. Some $93 million in projects that will create approximately 1,000 jobs have been disclosed.

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