On Friday, the N.C. Economic Development Board presented a long-term jobs creation blueprint to Gov. Pat McCrory. So what’s in the plan for North Carolina’s technology industry as well as entrepreneurs?
What about the plan’s overall economic output?
WRALTechWire is reaching out to executives to discuss their reactions to the plan. Our first exclusive interview is with Joe Freddoso, CEO at MCNC which recently completed a state-wide all-fiber backbone high-speed Internet network (N.C. Research and Education Network).
As WRAL reported Friday, the plan calls for North Carolina to focus its business recruiting efforts on 38 industries.
“We really got an opportunity to re-look at the way we generate jobs in North Carolina,” said John Lassiter, chairman of the board. (Npte: The board’s vice chair is Jim Whitehurst, CEO at Red Hat.) The board spent the last six months developing the plan.
Freddoso likes much of what the plan includes. He was among the executives interviewed for input into creation of the strategy.
In general, I am a huge proponent of having a vision backed by a solid plan to achieve that vision. It is the only path to success that I have experienced,” Freddoso told WRALTechWire.
“This 28 page document is both a vision and a base plan. I am committed to doing what MCNC can to help achieve the goals outlined in the plan because it means improved educational attainment, more prosperity and better quality of life for all North Carolinians.”
Freddoso pointed to some “nuggets” he especially likes:
“One: The recommendation to restore matching funds for SBIR/STTR grants from the Federal Government is wonderful. As a NC Board of Science and Technology member, I saw how successfully the board of Science and Technology staff at the Nroth Carolina Department of Commerce managed this program through Bob McMahan and now John Hardin. It was sad to see it fall victim to the cuts associated with the Great Recession and great to see the Economic Development Board has identified it as a priority.
“Two: I also really like relating data center incentives to other job creation. I have thought before that the data centers North Carolina has been successfully recruiting should be tied to data analytics operations from these same companies.
“One aspect, is that its a perfect way to leverage the North Carolina Research and Education Network, MCNC operates. NCREN is now a powerful, 100G capacity network that covers the state and connects almost all our Higher Ed Institutions. NCREN could provide these data center companies with direct connections to the analytics programs at our universities, particularly UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State, to work on cooperative, groundbreaking projects. Once we have the data center in the state transporting research data over NCREN to the universities is basically free. Its a huge competitive advantage that we have the capacity to do today.”
Freddoso chose to limit his comments about the overall recommendations of the plan to specifics regarding broadband and more open access.
“On to MCNC, my role was to talk about what MCNC had done to bring open access robust broadband infrastructure deeper into rural North Carolina. So its really the only portion of the report I feel qualified to speak upon directly. The open access part of MCNC’s fiber network is key here. MCNC will provide fiber infrastructure to any service provider, enterprise business or public agency who can leverage the infrastructure to grow jobs and bring faster and/or more attractively priced last mile broadband service to rural communities in our state.
“There is no other state in the country who possesses a statewide open access fiber network. The best part is: There was no outlay of state funds required for the investment.
“MCNC raised $40 million in required matching funds from entities outside of State Government (including $10 Million from the MCNC endowment and $24 Million from the Golden LEAF Foundation). While MCNC won’t serve last mile consumers or businesses directly, we have fiber assets that can help service providers large and small achieve this goal.
“The best part is – in the 6 months since the fiber build was completed, the fiber has attracted companies that intend to use it to improve rural broadband access in the state.”
Rural Broadband Opportunity
While North Carolina has big high-tech and life science clusters in the Triangle as well as Charlotte and the Triad, policy and business leaders remain challenged in attempts to improve rural prosperity. Freddoso sees broadband as being a growth driver.
“The MCNC fiber allows North Carolina to think big when it comes to rural broadband access – a business depending upon broadband connectivity to grow can locate anywhere along or near the build and be assured of high speed connectivity today and for the future from one of the private sector service providers that has obtained fiber from MCNC or the company can buy fiber directly,” he explained.
“As a state, the plan encourages North Carolinians to think long-term. To me long term is a day in the next five to ten years, when consumers will need a 100 MG or 1G connectivity at their home and businesses will need 10G connectivity at their premise to do business. North Carolina, with this infrastructure has taken a big step to be ready for that future.”