Economic Transformation News

Triangle economic developers launch high-tech worker recruiting campaign


From WRAL Tech Wire

By RICK SMITH, WRAL Tech Wire Editor

Raleigh, N.C. —  Wake County Economic Development and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce along with several other partners are trying to attract more highly qualified technology workers to the Triangle. Other partners in the effort are the Orange County Economic Development, Research Triangle Foundation and Research Triangle Regional Partnership.

Titled “Work in the Triangle, Smarter from Any Angle,” the organizers are hoping their efforts will boost the region’s efforts to help become a bigger hub in:

• Life Sciences & Biotechnology
• Interactive Software / Games
• Defense Technologies
• Electric Vehicles
• Smart Grid
• Software/IT
• Nonwoven Textiles
• Photonics

To help kick-start their efforts, the groups are hosting an economic development forum (Event information: Click here) on Wednesday in Raleigh. Joel Kotkin, an author and columnist at Forbes magazine who has written about the Triangle, is the keynote speaker. The latest research from Kotkin published last week noted the Triangle as one of the fastest growing producers of jobs in the private sectors among major metropolitan areas across the U.S.

Kotkin also has ranked the Raleigh area as No. 1 City for Families and the No. 1 Best Place for Business and Careers.

Jennifer Bosser, assistant executive director for Wake County Economic Development, who is helping spearhead the effort and the forum, talked with WRAL Tech Wire about the recruitment program.

Q: What are the major reasons why you and your partners are launching this effort?

With technology and access to the global economy, companies and talent have more choice in where they want to locate, work and live. The Triangle has been successful in growing our economy with sophisticated companies in industries that affect the world’s future. Those companies have come to the Triangle because of their ability to recruit and retain talent due in large part to the quality of graduates that are coming from our local universities, but also because people want to live in a place like the Triangle.

As an economic development agency, the No. 1 question we receive is about our workforce. Fortunately, we are well positioned to answer the question with “Yes, we have the talent that you need to locate here,” and we have won a number of projects because we can deliver the workforce.

The Research Triangle region is projected to grow by 48 percent or 979,782 people in the next 20 years. Wake County alone is projected to grow by 57 percent or 513,340 people in the next 20 years. With that projected growth, our leadership has recognized that we must continue to cultivate and replenish our most important asset – people – in order for the region to flourish in the decades to come. The ability for places to attract talent will be one of the most important factors in determining the locations that “win” and the locations that “lose” in the global economy.

Q: With all the good publicity Raleigh-Cary and the Triangle continues to receive from such publications as Forbes, why is this needed?

We are in a global economy. The communities that “win” are not the communities that stay complacent about being in the lead.

The Research Triangle Region has seen continued success and is admired by communities both nationally and internationally. We want to be proactive to recruit smart people to grow our economy to the next level. It is an economic development strategy that includes a dual approach in recruiting companies and recruiting smart people.

We are going to grow in population, so why not grow by attracting the best and brightest people to move their intellectual capital to the region?

Q: What do you wish to accomplish – what are the key objectives?

Our key objective is to position and market the Research Triangle Region as one of the top destinations for talented professionals to move to from across the country and around the world.

We believe those communities with the best and brightest people will attract companies and investment. Talent is a key ingredient for innovation.

Q: Why did you target these particular industries?

We have identified those targeted industry clusters in which we have strength and with the most potential to grow. This targeted industry cluster approach will be most effective in marketing our community and in the recruitment and growth of companies and jobs.

We work closely with the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, the Research Triangle Foundation, our local economic development partners, NC State University, NC Community Colleges and the vast array of industry organizations to grow and nurture the leading industriesin our area. These include biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, advanced medical technologies, software/IT, cloud computing, analytics, smart grid and interactive digital media.This strategy has produced successful results in attracting companies and talent.

In 2011 we had 92 new projects, and 84 percent of them were in our clusters. In 2011 there were a total of 52 announcements, and 73 percent of them were announced in the clusters on which we have focused.

Q: The theme is “Smarter from Any Angle” – How do you justify that?

We hired Development Counsellors International, a talent attraction and place marketing firm with over 50 years of experience working with economic development organizations and places. They did extensive research to develop a talent attraction campaign and brand promise that we could deliver on.

During this brand research, including a survey of 450 Triangle residents and one-on-one interviews with more than 40 key leaders and executives in the region, the theme of the Triangle being a “smarter” choice continued to come up.

Not only are people highly educated here, in the traditional sense of the word “smart,” but they are also making “smarter” lifestyle decisions – a temperate climate means they can be outdoors all year round, they are paying less for housing, spending less time stuck in traffic and more time with their friends and families. They are also working in cutting-edge industries, so they are making “smarter” career decisions.

With our three universities here, there are also plenty of highly educated people here doing really brilliant things. Ultimately, we believe that we can “own” this brand - that people really can work, live, learn and play here in a way that truly is “Smarter from Any Angle.”

Q: What do you hope to accomplish through the economic forum?

Our research has shown that people are most influenced by rankings, friends and family. Our local talent and businesses are key component of our strategy in telling the story of what makes the Triangle a smarter place to work, live, play and learn. We are eager to share our new Web portal with the community as a new resource that will help connect them and talent interested in moving to the area with information on what makes our community a smarter choice.

Q: Why did you select Joel Kotkin as the keynote speaker?

Repeatedly in interviews with talented professionals already living in the Triangle – and in our survey – we heard that rankings matter when people are looking for their next place to live and work.

Joel Kotkin’s Forbes rankings, in particular, carry a great deal of weight. He is one of the key demographers of our time, so he has researched the trends behind the statistics and can help us understand why some of the people who are moving here are making those decisions.

Joel has also written extensively about the Triangle and why it is positioned to do well in the coming decades, so we wanted him to share this message directly with our audience to get them excited about the possibilities, and to understand more about some of the area’s assets that are driving people to move here.