RALEIGH – Lots of change is coming to North Carolina’s technology economy this year as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on into a second year. And Brooks Raiford, CEO of the North Carolina Technology Association, talks with WRAL TechWire about what’s on the horizon as a preview of NCTA’s annual tech conference set for Wednesday.

Here’s our Q&A with Raiford:

  • How can NC residents best think about the shifting environment due to COVID-19 and the year just concluded (2020)?

Technology has made it possible for many job and educational functions to be performed remotely, which will have impact on transportation patterns such as reduced congestion on highways. This may also impact employees’ decisions on where to live – if jobs can be performed remotely, more people may opt to live in areas outside of major cities.

New NCTA logo

  • What regional trends do we see across/in NC – coastal region, the Triangle, the Triad/Piedmont, Charlotte Metro, Western NC?

While we don’t typically measure regional trends for our usual reports, we do produce a monthly IT Job Trends report that features a section that names the top ten metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the state based on number of IT jobs. We also just released our full 2020 report, which shows the number of IT jobs in these areas in 2020 compared to 2019: https://www.nctech.org/talent/2020YearEndReview.pdf

  • In your opinion, where are there emerging opportunities for businesses and startups in NC?

Naturally, the strongest regions are the more populous ones.  But one of the potential impacts of COVID, as seen in recent press reports, is that people increasingly can live where they want to and work remotely, meaning that less populated areas can benefit from quality of life strengths that attract individuals and families.

  • What’s the future of the workplace look like?

What we’re hearing from local companies is that large offices may remain large, but the employee spacing and headcount will be different, with some portion of employees working remotely or on a rotation with a less dense seating design in offices.

  • What data does the NC TECH Association have regarding job/sector growth, business growth, or other indicators tracked by the association for 2020?

[Stay tuned.] This Wednesday, we’re releasing the 2021 “State of the Industry Report” which has this data.

  • Given this, what trends does NC TECH anticipate in 2021?

We anticipate that North Carolina will continue to be among the leading states in percentage of women in the tech workforce, average pay for tech workers, growth in both tech jobs and tech businesses, and early survival rates for startups.

  • How might a new White House administration and U.S. Congress impact North Carolina, NC businesses, and North Carolinians?

One area that may be very different from the previous administration is the availability of H-1B visas, which will allow foreign citizens to work in the United States in hard to fill high-skilled roles.

  • What will guests hear during the virtual event?

Attendees will receive a briefing on the key findings of the 2021 State of the Industry Report as well as briefings from Gartner and Accenture on top tech trends for the upcoming year. There will also be panels and presentations on the future of AI and other technology topics.

  • What else is on the agenda?

This event serves as the NC TECH Association’s “Annual Meeting,” so in addition to releasing the key findings of our State of the Industry Report, we also introduce new officers and preview the Association’s plans for year ahead.  This event has historically been held in Charlotte as an in-person conference in January, but is being held virtually. One advantage of the new format is the ability for registrants to have access to the full content for up to two months following the January 27th presentation, without having to travel or adjust their schedule. Last year’s in-person Outlook for Tech conference had about 300 attendees, while this year’s virtual conference has about 330 registrants (and counting, since it hasn’t happened yet).