RALEIGH — Forget about the ongoing trade war between the United States and China, or the rising tensions in the Middle East.
When it comes to North Carolina’s success, and what has the biggest impact on the local economy, economists and business execs seem to agree that it comes down to one thing: talent.
“Talent is trumping everything,” Chris Chung, chief executive officer with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, told a 1,000-strong gathered for Raleigh Chamber’s 2020 Launch on Wednesday afternoon.
“Here in North Carolina, we’re at about 3.8 percent [unemployment ]. In an extremely tight labor market, companies like Advance Auto Parts and Red Hat, they are in a bloodbath trying to go after talent because right now it’s an employees market. If you’re an employee with marketable skills, you can have your pick of the litter, pretty much, in terms of where you want to work.”
As far as he sees it, he said, his number one job as an economic developer in 2020 is convincing companies that the Research Triangle — and North Carolina as a whole — will continue to be “home to the best talent pool.”
“How do we continue to make 42 people move to Wake County every day?” he asked rhetorically to the jam-packed auditorium at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh.
Among some of the challenges: infrastructure, diversity, social policy and affordable housing.
“We’re growing fast, but housing is getting more expensive for a lot of people, and that’s creating some challenges as well, he said. “If you’re trying to convince talent to move to this region, and it’s impossible to find an apartment in their price range or within a reasonable commute distance, or they’re just never going to be able to afford a home on an entry-level salary, that can create a challenge in continuing to sustain the in-migration we’ve seen in North Carolina and the Raleigh region.”
Natalie Rothman, Advance Auto Part’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer, agreed that attracting good talent is one of her company’s biggest concerns.
“With us transforming as a technology company, we have to give people a reason to come to Advance,” she said.
Among her company’s initiatives is offering flextime and flexplace.
“This has gone over huge. People tweet about it, Facebook all their friends. Most of the cohorts in our organization want to be judged on results, not on face time. This is a bit different from the past.”