As North Carolina voters head to the polls today to pick nominees in both major political parties, there’s a non-artisan issue at stake too: A $2 billion bond issue known as Connect NC. And several tech leaders have made clear they want the bonds to pass.

Among the most prominent have been Jim and Ann Goodnight.

Capitol Broadcasting, the parent company of WRAL TechWire, also has chipped in. CBC donated $10,000 to the organization seeking to generate support for the vote.

Jim Goodnight, the co-founder and CEO of Cary-based SAS, has contributed $150,000 to the Connect NC cause, according to’s Mark Binker.

“The bulk of the $2 million raised on behalf of the Connect NC bond referendum came from foundations associated with the state’s universities and community colleges, which stand to benefit from the $2 billion referendum,” Binker reported.

A WRAL News poll released last week found voters favoring the bond 45 percent to 18 percent, but more than a third remained undecided.

(Read his report at: )

Goodnight’s wife, Ann, has been outspoken as well.

Mrs. Goodnight and Vanessa Harrison, president of AT&T in North Carolina, recently published a letter in The News and Observer in which they spelled out their arguments for passage of the bonds. Mrs. Goodnight is senior director of Community Relations at SAS and an honorary Connect NC chair. Harrison serves on the Connect NC working committee.

“Closing the skills gap through Connect NC” is how the two headlined their letter. They see the bond as providing support for new educational facilities and programs that they and other bond backers believe will help train workers for the state’s technology-based future.

Noting that SAS has open jobs it is having trouble filling and that AT&T is seeking qualified software and network engineers, the two wrote:

“If North Carolina is serious about driving sustained economic growth by strengthening higher education to prepare our future workforce and closing the “skills gap,” we need to pass the Connect NC bond referendum March 15.”

As Barry Teater points out in a report for the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, the state’s growing life science economy also has much at stake in the bond vote.

“Bioscience building boom at stake in NC bond vote,” the headline reads on Teater’s overview.

“North Carolina voters will not only cast ballots for their favorite presidential candidate in the March 15 primary election. They will also decide a $2 billion state bond referendum that has long-term implications for North Carolina’s life science community.”

(Find the details at: )

Teater then breaks down in detail how universities and the North Carolina School of Science and Math could benefit from a bond passage.

(Read the details at: )

Why pass the bonds?

The Goodnight-Harrison letter says the bonds are necessary to help North Carolina “stay competitive in a global economy that is increasingly knowledge- and technology-driven.”

As was pointed out over and over at the recent Institute for Emerging Issues forum on “Future Work,” technology from robotics to authomation represent the future of employment. If humans are to compete and keep jobs, they must be better trained.

Goodnight and Harrison embraced the findings of a recent study to help make their argument.

“According to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, 67 percent of all future jobs in our state will require post-secondary education – whether that is certifications, an associate’s degree or a four-year degree,” they wrote. “Even more advanced education will be required for some of the fastest-growing occupations in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math – the STEM fields. Unfortunately, many North Carolinians will not have the education required for those jobs, which could result in a significant worker shortage just as our economy is getting stronger.

“We know firsthand how difficult it can be to fill jobs, especially those in the technology industries so prevalent here in the Triangle and across the state. For example, at SAS, it may take as long as two years to fill positions in areas such as operations research and machine learning. Likewise, AT&T often faces challenges in finding enough people with advanced technical skills and the educational background needed for some positions, such as software engineers or network engineers.”

Read the full letter at: