When I started work on our documentary “Tar Heel Titans” I couldn’t help but think about another documentary we produced just three years ago called “The Other North Carolina”. There’s a stark contrast between the two. “Tar Heel Titans” shows how our state’s technology industry is growing and thriving. “The Other North Carolina” shows how some of our state’s more traditional industries are shrinking and sinking. One program reflects our state’s economic future. The other reflects its economic past.
As a news reporter in North Carolina in the late ‘80’s and early 90’s I did stories on the state’s tobacco, textile and furniture industries. It was clear then that they were in decline and technology was our state’s economic future. Many of our state’s political leaders were pushing for improved education, especially in science and math, to help create the high-tech, high-skill workforce needed to fill the jobs of the future.
In “The Other North Carolina” economic developers in four of our state’s most rural counties told us they had difficulty attracting new industries because their workforce did not have the qualifications those industries needed. In “Tar Heel Titans” the CEO’s of some of the largest technology companies in the world, located in our state’s largest urban area, told us that the biggest challenge to the growth of their companies is finding enough qualified workers.
That means the leaders who 20 years ago said our state needed a better-educated and more highly skilled workforce were right. It also means our state still has a long way to go.