Chapel Hill, N.C. — North Carolina should invest more in turning the innovations developed at the state's public and private universities into marketable products, Gov. Pat McCrory told the UNC Board of Governors Friday morning.
Speaking to the board, which oversees the University of North Carolina system, along with his chief of staff, Thomas Stith, and others from a committee assigned to develop recommendations on growing businesses, McCrory said his aim was to turn the Research Triangle area into an innovation center that rivals Boston and Silicon Valley.
"We can be equal to those other two and be the vertex in the Southeast," McCrory said. "We can compete with them for talent, we can compete with them on quality of life – second to none – and we can compete with them regarding affordability."
To do that, McCrory said, the state need to figure out ways to turn research dollars coming to the state into products. Without that sort of conversion, he said, the state would begin to miss out on federal research dollars.
While North Carolina has rebounded from the recession by many measures, job and wage growth has not kept pace with population growth. In speeches and public appearances earlier this year, the governor and other state leaders have focused on ways to stoke the state's economy.
When he spoke to a group of bankers and business leaders earlier this month, McCrory said he lacked tools to lure established companies to the state and foreshadowed requests for more incentives he may make of the legislature. The items he announced Friday morning appear to be a second part of what will eventually be a package of economic development recommendations to the General Assembly.
The steps that McCrory and others on his innovation committee ticked off Friday were aimed at growing new North Carolina companies rather than luring companies here. They included:
- Investing $120 million in new venture capital companies. To get state funding, the companies would need to raise at least $2 of private capital for every $1 of state money invested. Those companies would then invest in innovations developed in North Carolina.
- Creating a $10 million-per-year program to help start-up companies make the transition from concept to a marketable product.
- Eliminating the state's capital gains tax rate for "innovation-related companies."
- Taking steps to lure North Carolina natives involved in innovation home to the state.
- Creating a crowd-funding program as a way of generating more capital for start-up companies.
"I think there's a sense of urgency to this," McCrory said, noting that other states are taking similar steps.