Editor’s note: Charles Hayes, chief executive officer of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, delivered the group’s annual state of the region report on Thursday. The text of his remarks follows.

Good morning!

And wow what and impressive area we live in.

I am Charles Hayes, President and CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership.

Welcome to the 9th annual STATE of the REGION!

I’m happy to have the opportunity to once again stand before you and tell you what you already know:

And that is that you and I have the good fortune to live and work in one of the Top Regions of the world:

  • Tops in ideas,
  • Tops in innovation,
  • Tops in smart companies
  • and tops in even smarter people.

First, a little about who we are: The Research Triangle Region includes 13 counties stretching from the Virginia border all the way to the Sandhills.

We’re one of seven economic regions in North Carolina.

This region is an engine of economic growth for North Carolina.

In 2010, our region’s Gross Domestic Product was $95.3 billion, that’s about 22.4% of the state’s GDP.

Our region’s GDP grew by 6.4 percent that year. That’s compared to the 4.4 percent growth for North Carolina and 3.8 percent growth for the U.S. overall. 6.4% vs. 3.8%.

We do live in a good place.

But remember we also live in an era of challenging times.

Today’s take-no-prisoners global economy has forced business to re-consider the factors that drive their companies’ success.

Those regions that offer a company the best chance of success will excel.

Let’s take a look at some of the advantages our region offers:

First it’s less expensive to live here.

The American Chambers of Commerce Research Association regularly indexes cost-of-living data from across the U.S.

In 2012, Raleigh and Durham’s cost of living actually dropped.

Moderate housing costs have a lot to do with what makes our region affordable. You can own or rent a home in Raleigh or Durham for about 25% less than in competing cities.

Our region is well-known globally for the quality and reliability of its business environment.

Millions of people around the world become aware of the Research Triangle Region through a long, consistent list of accolades that speak to the quality of our:

  • business environment,
  • educational institutions,
  • technology-ready communities
  • and progressive social scene.

Bloomberg; Milken; Forbes; Brookings – These are just a few; there are many more.

The Research Triangle Region has never been better-positioned when it comes to connecting companies here to the global economy.

For example, when Caterpillar needed more production capability it could have located anywhere in the world.

After all it has over 300 locations in 40 countries, but it chose to make investments in Lee and Johnston counties.

Investment that will increase our tax-base by millions of dollars and will bring more than 524 well paying jobs to our region.

These investments are here in part because of our excellent transportation infrastructure, which moves raw materials and manufactured goods throughout the world.

But we move people also.

In 2011, 93,610 people departed RDU International Airport headed to foreign destinations –

Think about that: nearly 94,000 people – That’s an average of 256 people everyday traveling the world and representing our region somehow, someway in other lands.

In the past 12 months, we’ve added non-stop air service to Houston, Grand Bahama Island and most importantly San Francisco.

But the real story of our region’s success isn’t ports or planes, its people.

The most promising minds in the world arrive here every day.

Last year, our regional population grew by nearly two percent.

And that growth wasn’t limited to our urban and suburban communities:

Population increased in 12 of our 13 counties –

We remain by far North Carolina’s best-educated region –

about 46 percent of us earned a college degree.

Educational attainment is widespread, but you can see a few of our communities are super-smart, or at least, super well educated.

We’ve got well-educated people everywhere:

Here’s a look at the ten county seats outside our urban core.

Over 40 percent of adults in Pittsboro earned a degree; one-third of those in Sanford have.

We saw this month – like every May, in fact – colleges and universities in our region graduating about 24 thousand young people.

It’s an inspiring sight, and one we should all find encouraging.

A knowledge-based economy requires well-educated workers.

But this is also a challenge for us: we’ve got to have jobs for these graduates, making support for aggressive regional economic development strategies more crucial than ever. Jobs!

Ours region is diverse in so many ways: Our population, our communities, our industries.

We’re known as an R&D region, but we’re also a manufacturing region, with communities that excel at both –

Places like Cary and Franklinton, Oxford and Smithfield.

The diversity of our workforce dictates that our region maintains a multi-faceted economic development agenda.

A company can do it all here!

From corporate headquarters and R&D to manufacturing and distribution.

That’s what really makes our region special.

GlaxoSmithKline, Siemens, John Deere –
these are a few of the marquee companies in our region that are taking advantage of our energy and diversity to maintain multiple operations across more than one of our communities.

Semprius is another example. This maker of high-efficiency solar modules is headquartered in Durham.

It’s a company whose innovations are re-shaping energy production.

Recall that last year, I told you about a new Smart transformer developed at NC State that was cited by MIT as “one of the world’s most important emerging technologies.”

Well, this year, Semprius, as you saw in the video, won the same honor.

Two years, Two Top Tens

Many regions would love to have even one company make this prestigious list in a lifetime – we’ve had two in two years.

That fact alone would make it a powerful success story for our Region.

But the story of Semprius and what it means for our region doesn’t end there.

Last year, Semprius launched development of a $90 million manufacturing plant in Vance County ….

A move that brings 256 CleanTech jobs to the northern portion of our region.

We’re seeing examples of the same evolution in reverse:

In the Moore County town of Aberdeen, Meridian Zero is doing a booming business.

They provide high-tech kiosks for corporations and educational institutions worldwide.

Aberdeen is home to Meridian Zero’s corporate offices, its design studio and a 64,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

Earlier this year, they opened a sales and marketing office in Morrisville, taking advantage of that town’s proximity to RDU.

Cross pollination from urban to rural……. and rural to urban.

It’s more than an idea that sounds cool: It makes good business sense.

How many regions can ever boast of such success stories?

That’s what enables us to succeed in such a broad array of industries – and among companies large and small.

Home-grown firms as well as corporate legends that are finding their way to every part of our region from all corners of the planet.

New businesses and jobs coming to our region are coming here from around the nation and from around the world.

In fact, some 20 percent of all the new capital investment in the last two years came from international companies.

Well over half a billion dollars –

And one in every five jobs created here over that time.

The language of economic development in our region is often spoken with a foreign accent.

For example, Syngenta Biotechnology is creating 147,000 square feet of state-of-the-art greenhouse space.

The Switzerland-based company is spending $71 million on the facility,
Which will house scientists from around the world.

Syngenta didn’t have to locate here.

In fact before deciding on its RTP site.

They explored areas on three continents

Asia, Europe and South America.

Competition is fierce and it is Global.

Another example.

Germany’s BASF Corp. is making its own significant agri-bio investment at RTP.

It’s moving the headquarters of its plant science division from Germany to here. A German Company moving its Headquarters from Germany to here. It’s also launching a $33 million expansion of its R&D footprint, where it already employs a staff of 780.

Our region’s life sciences cluster is a magnate for foreign direct investment – but it’s not limited to the Park.

In Franklin County for example Novozymes – the Danish leader in industrial biotechnology – has perfected a new product that enhances the environmental sustainability of beer-making.

Novozymes’ enables brewers to produce great-tasting beer within a smaller carbon footprint.

The company worked with partners at N.C. State and Aviator Brewery in Fuquay-Varina in this effort to bring the world its first truly “Green” beer. Not to be confused with that stuff some of you drink on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Foreign direct investment dollars also are flowing into Granville and Person counties.

CertainTeed Roofing – part of France’s Saint-Gobain building products manufacturer –

Is investing $20 million at its facility in Oxford in an expansion that is bringing 10 new jobs.

I know 10 jobs might sound modest – until you consider those jobs will pay nearly twice the county’s average annual wage.

In Roxboro, Certainteed is also set to open its new $160 million manufacturing plant later this year.

Annual salaries for the 89 new jobs there will top $55,000.

International investment is among the factors setting the Research Triangle Region and its economy apart.

In fact, our 13 counties are home to about one-fourth of North Carolina’s foreign owned firms.

Our region is on the winning side of global economics.

That helps account for the fact that we typically have the state’s lowest unemployment rate compared to the other six regions – 8.2 percent as of March. That’s down from 8.7 percent in March 2011.

In calendar year 2011, the Research Triangle Region saw a gain in employment of 15,596.

12 of our 13 counties witnessed gains.

Hopefully next year we will see all of our counties with gains.

One sector that continues to see consistently high growth is healthcare.

We added 3,000 healthcare jobs during 2011.

Health care provides jobs, and brings patients and dollars here from outside the region and, in many cases, outside the country.

Medicine and healthcare have a good, stable presence in our region –

Historically concentrated around our big medical centers in Wake, Durham, Moore and Orange counties.

More recently, Harnett and Chatham counties are emerging as important players in regional healthcare and medicine.

Campbell University’s new School of Medicine, the first new medical school in this state in 35 years,

is bringing unique opportunities for additional healthcare job growth.

But an even larger advanced medical and health education vision is coming to Harnett.

Known as “the Highway 421 Healthcare Corridor,”

It will include Central Carolina Community College’s Health Sciences Building,

and a clinical outpost for East Carolina University’s School of Dentistry.

In Chatham County, Galloway Ridge at Fearrington –

Already among the nation’s premier life-care retirement communities –

is undertaking a $102 million expansion and renovation that will increase its 200-person workforce by 25 percent.

Another great benefit our advanced medical cluster brings this region is in the ease with which it overlaps with our other key industry clusters: –

  • pharmaceuticals
  • nanoscale technologies, 
  • biological agents, 
  • e-learning,


Many regions have cluster development strategies –

But they typically put each cluster in its own silo.

In our Region, clusters grow and flourish through cross-pollination – collaborating internally, of course,

But also reaching out to other industry clusters and business sectors that might on their surface seem dissimilar.

Indeed, it is those differences that enable innovation and invention.

Nowhere is our region’s ability to bring together diverse minds and bold ideas more obvious than in the pioneering work of our CleanTech cluster.

CleanTech may be our newest cluster, but it is sharpening the competitive edge of some of our most traditional industries.

In my hometown of Norlina, for example,

A new 500-kilowatt solar array atop Glen Raven’s yarn mill is generating an amount of electricity equal to that consumed by 47 average-sized homes.

It’s an example of the great things that happen in our region when collaboration takes place between innovation-minded companies from different clusters – a privately held manufacturer and an investor-owned utility like Progress Energy or, just as easily, Duke Energy.

Cross-pollination comes so naturally to us that it mostly takes place with


  • No fanfare.
  • No media.
  • No big deal.

Except that it is a big deal.

As is the fact that GE’s latest generation of WattStation electric vehicle chargers is now being manufactured in our Region.

As the market for energy-saving vehicles becomes more and more viable, the GE WattStation will be a commonplace sight along city streets and in parking lots across America.

And they’re being produced by the 254 employees of GE Energy Industrial Solutions’ plant in Orange County.

When it comes to CleanTech, all of us can be proud that the eyes of the world are focused on our region as innovations in:

  • Alternative energy,
  • Power distribution,
  • Fuel efficiency
  • and Green building
  • are taking shape as a result of cross-pollination.

Complementing the Region’s extraordinary leadership in SmartGrid technologies is equally adventuresome R&D activities now occurring in wind energy.

In March, China’s leading manufacturer of wind turbines, Ming Yang, opened its North American research and development center, its North American research and development center  at NC State’s Centennial Campus.

They could have located the facility anywhere, but they came to Raleigh.

And they came to Raleigh for many reasons – not least of which is the strong leadership coming from the North Carolina Solar Center at N.C. State.

So often the story in our region of:


  • job creation,
  • of cluster development
  • and economic success here –
  • and really, any story that involves our future

can be traced to one of our 16 colleges and universities.

Our business community is also playing a leading role in these efforts.

Last October, Cleantech officials from around the world traveled to our region for a three-day meeting of the International Cleantech Network, of which our organization is a founding member.

That gathering showcased our entire region, one of only two U.S. regions to take part in the International Cleantech Network.

It included a Smart Grid Forum hosted by SAS Institute.

SmartGrid is about much more than transformers and meters –

it’s about having access to actionable data, and SAS’s global leadership and expertise in information-management is key to putting the “smart” into SmartGrid.

Across all our clusters, interaction between campus-based innovation centers and market-leading companies is building a better future for our region… and for our world!

Just as a great American art form grew from the divergent, clattering melodies and cross-cutting rhythms known as jazz, a regional economy with true staying power springs from dialogue and collaboration between businesses and people with nothing more in common than a shared stake in a better future.

After all what do a bee and a flower have to agree on other than a natural desire to survive?

Yet, – that’s what it takes – little more, — but certainly nothing less.

Diversity. Interaction. Collaboration. Cross-pollination.

Whatever you choose to call it, it makes

  • good science,
  • good music,
  • good business
  • and it makes a good region.

Regional economic development is the ultimate cross-pollination –
communities coming together; private-sector interests partnering with government;

A meeting place of organizations and ideas – some bringing expertise, others lending their leadership; some bringing financial resources, others offering manpower.

Together, we’re making a difference.

Since launching our Shape of Things to Come plan in 2009, we’ve seen a net employment gain of 22,428.

So we’re about halfway through the plan, but have accomplished only about 23 percent of our job creation objective.

That’s not great news, but few in 2009 thought the Great Recession – “the Great Re-set” – would still be with us three years later.

That’s not our fault, but it is our problem.

And we’re working hard to address it, working smarter and working together to get our region’s message in front of the world’s job creators.

A lot of good things can happen in two years, and we expect employment levels in the region to keep moving in the right direction.

The more encouraging news is that our projects have been capital intensive.

From mid-2009 to March 2012 we saw the arrival of $5.3 billion in announced new investment.

This is real wealth coming here from outside – buying land, constructing physical plant, installing equipment, paying property tax….and creating real jobs.

Good targeting makes a difference in our success. Effective strategic planning makes a huge difference.

Let’s take a moment look at some of our recent successes.


As you can see we have many successes throughout our region and yet much work remains.

But we have in place proven assets that yield success:


  • affordability,
  • infrastructure,
  • talent,
  • supportive government,
  • good public services,
  • livability.

We have many reasons to be encouraged.

  • We are among the best because you’re the best.
  • and you’re not only the best at what you do,
  • but the best at reaching out,
  • working together,
  • cross-pollinating.

Being part of a region. Being leaders of a region.

It’s what sets you apart. It’s what sets us apart.

And with your ongoing support and commitment

We will continue to be a region like no other.

Make a note of it now – May 23, 2013 – our next State of the Region Breakfast, which will mark the 10th anniversary of our State of the Region meetings – and important milestone you do not want to miss.

In the meantime, thank you for all you do!

(Note: For WRAL Tech Wire’s report about the event, read here.]

(C) Research Triangle Regional Partnership