The Research Triangle is leading North Carolina’s economic recovery as the region generated 36,447 net new jobs in 2012.
The job growth was both rural and urban and spanned across a number of industries in each of the 13-counties making up the region, according figures released this morning by the Research Triangle Regional Partnership. The Research Triangle’s job gains were three times higher than any other region in North Carolina.
Meanwhile, unemployment in the region last year fell to 8.1 percent and it continues to decline; by the end of the first quarter of this year, unemployment in the Research Triangle region was down to 7.5 percent. Layoffs in 2012 were just 1,984, lower than any year since 1990.
“Our region is growing jobs, just as the United States has been losing jobs,” said Charles Hayes, president and CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, or RTRP.
More than 900 people crammed into a ballroom at the Sheraton Imperial Hotel & Convention Center in Durham for the RTRP’s annual State of the Research Triangle Region Forum, the 10th year for the event.
This year’s gathering included video presentations that showcased entrepreneurs and executives at all stages. Adam Monroe, president of North America for Danish enzymes company Novozymes, how his company’s work Franklinton benefits from collaboration with ag-bio companies, including those with major operations in Research Triangle Park. Jesse Lipson explained how he grew his document sharing startup Sharefile into a $54 million acquisition by cloud technologies company Citrix.
Keval Mehta, CEO of startup InRFood based in the American Underground, talked about developing a mobile app that allows people learn about the ingredients in their food simply by scanning a product’s bar code. The app has gained national attention as Mehta has found himself making presentations at hot tech events such as South by Southwest.
The common theme from each of them, and others, was collaboration. Actually, the RTRP took it upon itself to coin a new word: “collaboratition”, the combination of “collaboration” and “competition.” Companies, universities and communities collaborate and compete, with the end result being the improvement of the region as a whole. For example, RTP-based BASF Plant Sciences is working with Novozymes and Cargill to develop a plant-based, environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels for making adhesives, paints and plastics, Hayes said.
Just as biotechnology has driven much of the Triangle’s growth over the last 25 years, Hayes says that clean technologies, or cleantech, will be the driver of the next 25. The RTRP made cleantech an economic development priority in 2009. The RTRP calculates that since then, cleantech companies have announced more than $700 million in capital investments while also creating about 2,600 new jobs.
The Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster, an initiative launched by the RTRP, now counts among its members energy and networking powerhouses such as ABB, Duke Energy, Cisco Systems, SAS Institute, and PowerSecure International. In some respects, these companies offer competing technologies. But the companies are also working together to advance the region’s cleantech economy.
“For companies competing in this space, the Research Triangle doesn’t just make the short list, we are the short list,” Hayes said.