Editor’s note: Rick Smith is editor and co-founder of WRAL TechWire which launched in 2002. He has been writing about high-tech in the Triangle and North Carolina since 1995. The Skinny blog is a regular feature at TechWire.


RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – It’s hard to believe that just four years ago the Triangle went from a huge player for big tech projects from Amazon, Apple and the Army to an also-ran. Nice headlines to promote the “halo effect” of being a finalists for Amazon’s HQ2, Apple’s new campus and an Army headquarters, but … Now, the Triangle is wearing the halo – or crown – with other regions stuck with the “effect.”

The latest tech giant reportedly designating Durham-Raleigh-Chapel Hill-Cary and more as a place to invest and expand operations is Facebook parent Meta, as WRAL reported Monday evening.

“We have nothing to share regarding any plans in the Research Triangle at this time,” Jamila Reeves, a Meta company spokesperson, told WRAL via email Monday night.

But this statement doesn’t read like an outright denial, does it? And Facebook has a big, growing complex across the state for data storage so North Carolina is a market that Jeff Zuckerberg and company know well.

Rick Smith is editor and cofounder of WRAL TechWire

So the Triangle could soon be home to another big operation from one of the so-called FAANG stocks – the big tech drivers on Wall Street: Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google (Alphabet).

(What can the Triangle do to land Netflix? Or maybe Tesla, which should be a FAANG.)

March of progress

In the disappointing days since Amazon, Apple and the Army said “no,:”

  • Apple has since decided to build a new campus in RTP. (I still believe Apple picked the Triangle back then and just sat on the news while choosing to build first in RTP rival Austin, Texas.)
  • Microsoft is building a big presence in Morrisville
  • Google is creating an engineering campus in Durham.

Even Amazon is growing its local footprint although the ecommerce giant’s ops in this area are more focused in getting products sorted and delivered. That mammoth warehouse complex in Garner is NOT to be underestimated in its importance for jobs, tech evolvement (think robots) and more.

Bountiful tech harvest

But the Triangle’s surge once the pandemic crested has spread well beyond the FAANGs with IBM and Red Hat growing, Cree’s evolution into Wolfspeed and global chip leadership, and much more. An electric car plant is coming. So too are big electric vehicle battery plants.

And not enough can be said about all the life science expansion taking place led by some of the world’s biggest pharma names such as Eli Lilly.

Not be be overlooked longer term is Cary-based Epic Games‘ focus on the metaverse and the billions it has raised to push development.

Quantum computing is taking place at Duke University and N.C. State.

The list goes on and on.

Facebook’s parent company Meta planning ‘significant presence’ in Durham, sources say

So what has changed in four years?

Well, losing those other projects generated a lot of attention, as noted earlier. Industrial recruiters kept the Triangle on their radar screens, and – let’s face facts – the pandemic led to companies looking to diversity their footprints far beyond the Valley, New York, Boston, Los Angeles …

Plus the talent pool in this area is deep.

Primarily, these companies are coming and growing in the Triangle and regions nearby because of a hunger for talent that comes at reasonable prices.

The state is not resting on its laurels, either, in terms of growing and expanding the workforce.

“And in today’s business environment, we know we can’t rest on our laurels in this area, which explains why the state’s new strategic plan for economic development is named the First in Talent plan,” David Rhoades of the North Carolina Department of Commerce, told The Skinny last December as Carolina documented 2021 as the state’s best-year ever for economic development.

“Published in August, the First in Talent plan provides a road map for keeping North Carolina’s workforce strong and growing.  Combined with the state’s traditional strengths in transportation, geography, and business climate, we’re optimistic there’s a lot more growth to come in 2022 and beyond.”

Today, 2022 is half offer and look at the economic news that continues to make headlines.

North Carolina recruits record number of jobs, $10B in investment in 2021

Then there is a business-friendly legislative environment designed to lure jobs with lucrative incentives.

And quality of life.

Painful side effects

Unfortunately, one huge  side effect of all this growth is the growing costs of living here – from rents to buying houses and so much more. Where will all these people swarming to the region live?

Gentrification is a serious issue that needs to be addressed as is affordable housing.

Infrastructure is going to be strained. Mass transit is likely to gain renewed attention. More schools will be needed,

Visual impact

Look, up in the sky …

Proof positive of the region’s continuing transformation is not in economic statistics but what we can see. Anyone who has lived here since the internet revolution began in the 1990s has seen the transformation of the skylines in Raleigh and Durham. Even Research Triangle Park is destined to have office towers lining I-40 well beyond the headquarters of IQVIA.

Still to come: Downtown South in Raleigh. And a bunch of 40-story towers are being planned.

Look at well at how RDU International is back in the growth game with additional flights, including international destinations. And a new runway won’t hurt.

With car and big battery plants coming, more life science growth and big tech I think it’s safe to say the Triangle is becoming a well-rounded Silicon Valley South. Something the Park founders dreamed about in the late 1950s before there was a real Valley and RTP was forrest and fields.

In 10 years or less … will Tesla be here? A sub-Amazon campus? More Meta, Google, Apple, IBM-Red Hat? Sure looks that way.

Trying to put everything that’s happening across the Triangle into one summary isn’t easy. But the bottom line is this:

Who needs Amazon anymore? Unless, of course, Amazon somedays plans an HQ3.