Editor’s Note: The WRAL TechWire “Future of Work” series, supported by commercial real estate firm JLL and other partners, continues. 

Earlier this month, series took an in-depth look at the demand for land, which can now be described as “insatiable,” while developers look to shore up their land positions.  That’s especially the case in the industrial sector, the topic of the special report and in-depth Q&A, and, increasingly, the life science and biopharmaceutical sector, which the series investigates this week.  Join a WRAL TechWire LinkedIn Live discussion on Tuesday, May 17 at 11 a.m.  


RALEIGH – Generally speaking, companies seeking to relocate, expand, or open new facilities are looking to do so for a variety of factors.  But chief among those factors is talent.  And the Triangle rates well for its talent concentration in the life science, biotechnology, and biopharmaceutical sectors, according to a recent report from commercial real estate firm JLL.

How well?  The region ranks among the top 25 markets globally for talent concentration and for innovation, according to the JLL report from January 2022.  The Triangle is ranked 20th for its talent pool, according to the report, and 25th for innovation.

That ranking places the region eighth in the United States, trailing San Jose, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Austin, Seattle, and New York City.

So while access to high-quality space is critical for companies to thrive, said Travis McCready, executive director of life science markets for JLL, in an interview with WRAL TechWire earlier this year, the first consideration for any life science company considering an expansion or a relocation to a new market is talent.

“Without doubt,” said McCready, “the availability of talent will make or break a search for space.”

Perspectives on life science industry trends, and what companies need – a Future of Work Q&A

Where talent and space intersect

But there’s a third factor at play, as well, said McCready, and that is best summarized as whether access to quality space and access to quality talent is cost-effective.

That’s where North Carolina markets perform really well, said McCready, including the life science sector in the Triangle.

“Areas like Raleigh-Durham and other North Carolina markets perform very, very well in biomanufacturing because of the access to talent, the relative low cost of the peer group, and the relative low cost of available space in the North Carolina markets,” said McCready.

And while there exists an ongoing misconception of a “lone scientist working in a laboratory” among many in the general public, what occurs in the life science sector is often the exact opposite, said McCready.

Science requires collaboration, he said, and scientists are deeply, deeply collaborative.

“As a result, in order to be successful, and in order to accelerate, companies find it necessary to be around their peer group, for sharing of ideas, sharing of methodologies, and increasingly, even sharing data, as a way of accelerating their company and their programs toward commercialization,” said McCready.

‘No parallel’ for Future of Work in Triangle’s life science sector, economy

Beyond competition, there’s also community

The fourth driving factor for companies when it comes to a search for new markets is community.

“Companies want and need to be near or adjacent to their competitors and other life science companies,” said McCready.  “When you think about it, for lots of reasons, this makes a ton of sense.”

There’s attrition, so a hedge against availability of talent is to be proximate to a competitor, said McCready.  But life science companies are also convergent in today’s economy, and need access not only to biological, chemical, and life science talent, they need to be able to attract engineering, computer science, and other technical talent.

That means that today’s life science companies need to be co-located in innovation economies that are strong in technology, and where a diversity of talent is readily available, said McCready.

NC’s next big step as global leader in life sciences: equity

The Triangle’s position

Increasingly, companies believe that this is what is offered in the Triangle.  But McCready says that the region still has room to position itself as a global leader in the life sciences.

“I’ve learned in my career that while substance is super important, so is style,” said McCready.  “There is an enormous opportunity for Raleigh-Durham to rebrand itself as a globally-recognized life sciences ecosystem, not just the place you go to do your manufacturing.”

Historically, the region has been somewhat “demure in its identity, and its branding, and its marketing,” said McCready.  “But given the high level of competition across the geographies of the United States, there is no longer the time or space for humility.”

What’s next in Future of Work series: The ‘unquestionable strength’ of the Triangle

This editorial package was produced with funding support from JLL and other partners.  WRAL TechWire retains full editorial control of all content.

The series launched here, and the second report discussed high demand.  Next, the series explored the relationship between work spaces, work places, and the current labor market.  The following weeks, we’ve investigated specific sectors of the real estate market, and this week’s focus is on the life science sector.

More from the series

Special report: In Triangle, demand for life science space outpacing supply

Future of Work: Triangle ‘well-positioned’ for more growth of industrial sector

Exclusive Q&A: Resiliency, e-commerce keeping demand for industrial space high

Future of Work special report: Across the Triangle, an ‘insatiable demand’ for land

Future of Work report: Developers ‘aggressively trying to shore up land positions’ in Triangle

Perspectives on land development: A ‘Future of Work’ Q&A