RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – North Carolina is well positioned to capitalize on the economic growth opportunities being driven by the defense industry due to key technologies and capabilities available in the state, according to a new study.

The Defense Alliance of North Carolina, working with RTI International, notes that the state is “among the fastest growing states in the nation for technology areas being targeted by the Department of Defense.”

“We often talk about how much the Research Triangle region has to offer in terms of technological innovation and expertise,” said Tim Gabel, Executive Vice President of Social, Statistical and Environmental Sciences at RTI and a member of the DANC Executive Board, in a statement. “What’s exciting about these findings is that we have capabilities across our entire state that should create a path forward to bring more jobs and long-term investment to North Carolina.”

Here are steps NC can take to capitalize on Defense tech needs

However, the state while home to major military bases and more than 150,000 service members, lags in terms of military related business.

“North Carolina plays an important role in the defense infrastructure of the United States: it is the 4th largest state in terms of total Department of Defense (DoD) personnel with over 146,000 people stationed in the state at the end of 2018,” the report notes.

“However, it is a small market for defense business relative to its size: it ranks 23rd in DoD contracting at $3.3 billion, with only 3% of that contracting going to research and development (R&D).”

NC opportunities

The report cites “six technology areas” of focus at DoD for future contracts:

  • advanced manufacturing
  • autonomous systems
  • data and knowledge management
  • human performance
  • materials
  • power

North Carolina has strengths in several areas based on a review of data over the past five years, the study notes:

  • North Carolina ranked first in economic growth in data and knowledge management and human performance
  • NC ranks second in power and advanced manufacturing.
  • Also, NC has a high concentration of jobs in research and services related to the six technology areas compared with the national average

The report notes that North Carolina companies aren’t a significant player in terms of landing DoD-related contracts, however, and stresses that an opportunity for more business becons.

“They found that 11 percent of North Carolina companies in the six target technology areas have defense contracts,” RTI noted.

“The main reasons companies did not have defense contracts were a lack of awareness of opportunities, difficulties in navigating government proposals and greater financial opportunities in commercial markets.”

Paul Friday, Executive Director of DANC, said that the report lays the groundwork for future efforts to win more business.

“Significant effort from now until late spring will be placed on: ensuring easy access to the information, developing and getting marketing materials out to the economic development community and positioning partners and especially companies for future success as we continue to grow this state’s defense economy,” he explained.

The full report can be read online.