Some 800 business, educational and economic development leaders gathered at the annual State of the Research Triangle Region event on Thursday were briefed on how the area is being turned into a “smart region” through the use of technology and education.

“In any given time frame, our story is about exceptional people doing extraordinary things, and their work results in new inventions, new companies, new opportunities and new horizons,” said Charles Hayes, president and CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, which put on the 12th annual event.

The regional partnership, which includes counties in and around the boundaries of Research Triangle Park, has formed “clusters” of business, institutions and organizations to focus on specific areas such as cleantech. But on Thursday, Hayes and others talked about how technology and data are being used in a wide variety of areas to not only drive job growth but also improve quality of life.

Hayes defined “smart region” as an area “that leverages its technology innovations with top talent retention, educational opportunities at all levels and innovative individual services that create sustainable communities, support a high quality of life and create economic opportunity.”

The region also continues to strengthen economically, Hayes said, citing several statistics:

  • The region’s gross domestic product grew by 4.3 percent, “slightly faster than that of the state or the nation”
  • Employment grew by 2.1 percent or 22,694 jobs
  • Wages grew by 2.3 percent
  • The tax base grew by nearly $4 billion

In his presentation, Hayes also noted that more than 47 percent of adults living in the Triangle region hold university degrees compared to a national average of 38 percent.

The area is “not only home to smart people, it is really a beacon for smart people,” Hayes added, noting that 38,000 people are moving to the Triangle.

Hayes cited several statistics and “accolades” for the region as signs of it being “smart:”

  • 1,989 Patents Granted in FY 2013
  • No. 17 in the Nation in Patents Awarded in FY 2013
  • Six IPOs from Companies in the Region in 2014


  • Top 10 City Gaining the Most College Graduates – Forbes, April 2015
  • No. 1 Mid-Sized American City of the Future – Financial Times, April 2015
  • Top 10 Technical, Innovative and Business Savvy Cities in America – Travel Channel , April 2015
  • No 2 Most Internet-Connected City in the US – US Census Bureau , November 2014
  • Two of the Best Places for Tech Jobs – NerdWallet, April 2015
  • No 1 Hot City for IT Pros in 2015 – Information Weekly, February 2015
  • No. 5 Best-Performing Large US City – Milken Institute, January 2015

“Smart” living and governing

Hayes cited several examples of what he called “smart” living and governance:

  • Smart governance – Towns of Benson, Cary and Smithfield team with companies, such as ElectriCities of North Carolina and SAS, to implement smart electric and water systems that save money and natural resources while providing the latest intelligent services for residents.
  • Smart mobility – Hikers, bikers and joggers navigate 100-plus miles of trails that connect the 3,700-acre Capital Greenway system using the city of Raleigh’s new greenway app, while motorists along the region’s interstates travel more smoothly and efficiently with assist from the N.C. Department of Transportation’s intelligent transportation system.
  • Smart environment – Pinehurst cut water usage in half at two U.S. Open golf tournaments last summer thanks to innovations designed by N.C. State University researchers to reduce the environmental footprint of those events.
  • Smart living – A unique venture in Warren County is working to build sustainable livelihoods through responsible stewardship of natural and cultural resources, such as promoting fresh homegrown goods, while developers and technology partners develop Chatham Park as a 7,000-plus-acre model sustainable live, work and play community in Chatham County.