Editor’s note: The annual “State of the Research Triangle Region” event is coming up on May 21 with a theme of building a “smart” region. What’s that mean? WRAL TechWire asked Research Triangle Regional Partnership CEO Charles Hayes to explain.

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – PSNC Energy is known as a natural gas provider, but as a major transporter of fuel, it is also part of the region’s network of technology-enabled transportation and logistics enterprises that create “smart mobility.”

The proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline will connect the region’s natural gas assets to consumers, providing a key link in the region’s “smart energy” value chain.

And Chatham Park, a 7,100-plus-acre, master-planned live, work and play community in Chatham County, is being developed as a model for “smart” sustainable cities.

Each of these examples represents a building block of a “smart” region, one that leverages technology innovations with top talent retention, educational opportunities at all levels and innovative individual services to create sustainable communities, support a high quality of life and spark innovations that create economic opportunity.

Our region is well positioned to lead in this emerging area, benefiting not only our economy and our communities through local deployment but also creating new products, processes and services our companies can export globally.

On May 21, nearly 1,000 regional business and community leaders will convene for our annual State of the Research Triangle Region event, where we’ll focus on the qualities that define a smart region, look at how our region stacks up and examine what that can mean for our companies, our quality of life and our future.

The recent, rapid growth of our region’s cleantech cluster provides a clue. The cluster of companies that work in the interrelated areas of smart grid, smart water and smart transportation announced more than $1.29 billion in investments between 2009 and 2014 and created more than 10,500 related jobs. Cleantech is only one component of a smart region. We have many more.

Any company in any industry that wants to grow in the future and any community that intends to prosper has a role to play in developing a smarter Research Triangle Region. We hope you’ll plan to attend the 2015 State of the Research Triangle Region and learn more.

Note: Limited seating and sponsorship opportunities remain for the 2015 State of the Research Triangle Region event. Learn more and register at www.researchtriangle.org/2015SOR.