Driven in part by a surge in foreign capital investment and a jump in economic output, the Research Triangle region is adding jobs and is growing at a faster rate than the rest of North Carolina as well as the United States.
So reported Charlie Hayes, chief executive officer of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, which issued its annual state of the Triangle economic report on Thursday. A capacity crowd of several hundred business executives and community leaders packed the room at the Sheraton Imperial hotel to hear Hayes’ report, which is one of the most eagerly awaited each year since it focuses on not just the core of the Research Triangle – Wake, Durham and Orange counties.
The 13 county area that makes up the region added 15,596 jobs in 2011 and has created 22,428 jobs since what Hayes describes as the “great recession” of 2008-2009 and the ensuing “great reset.”
“We are working hard to address [the jobs issue],” Hayes said. “We have many reasons to be encouraged.” But he cautioned “there is still much work to be done.”
Regional unemployment is still 8.2 percent, which is down half a percentage point from a year ago. That’s slightly better than the statewide average and on par with the national rate.
New unemployment data for April will be announced by the state on Friday.
The partnership, which works with the private sector and state and local governments to help recruit jobs and spur economic development, launched an initiative called “The Shape of Things” to come in 2009 with a goal of creating 100,000 jobs. But the recession and a lingering sluggish recovery has yet to erase 36,000 jobs lost in the recession, Hayes noted.
The Triangle region’s gross domestic product grew by 6.4 percent last year, a third better than that of the state’s 4.4 percent growth, Hayes noted. The national economy, meanwhile, grew at 3.8 percent.
A surge in healthcare jobs by 3,000 helped spark the Triangle’s employment total at the best rate since the recession hit in 2008.
Hayes also cited growth in new industry “clusters” such as clean energy and biotech as well as manufacturing.
Hayes also noted that despite “take no prisoners” competition foreign-owned corporations had invested more than $579 million in new plants and facilities across the Triangle over the past 2/12 years. Those firms also have created 2,594 jobs.
“That is real wealth being invested in our region,” Hayes said. “Our region is on the winning side of global business.”
With a wry smile, he added: “The language of expansion is often spoken with a foreign accent.”
Other recent pluses for the Triangle include the addition of non-stop flights from RDU International Airport to such business hubs as San Francisco and Houston, Hayes added.
The 13 counties in the region are: Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Pearson, Vance, Wake and Warren.
Fore details of the report, read here.