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Wake Business Leaders Using Competitive Edge to Attract Thousands of New Jobs

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RALEIGH — The Triangle already has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Now there is a push to bring an additional 44,000 jobs to Wake County.

More new jobs sounds good on paper, but a lot of people will frown about the additional traffic those new jobs and people will bring. Still, business leaders say the positives outweigh the negatives.

TheGreater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce'sCompetitive Edge program has exceeded its goals, helping generate more than 67,000 jobs in Raleigh and Wake County over the past five years.

"When the program was developed, we weren't the hottest commodity in town," says Rex Healthcare CEO Jim Albright. "We've grown since then and are doing very, very well."

Now the group is kicking off its Competitive Edge II program. Its goal is to raise nearly $4 million in private contributions to help promote economic development for the next five years.

Some people question whether business leaders should concentrate on other things besides growth -- like traffic.

"I think its growing too fast, but the jobs are great and we have to balance it," says one motorist.

This Competitive Edge program will have an increased focus on transportation problems, one of the big consequences of too much growth.

"We know as business leaders that we have to have improved infrastructure to improve the quality of life, to then recruit other business and highly skilled people," says Albright.

But the main idea behind this project is creating jobs. That is because there is an old saying in the business world: you either grow or die,

The Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce's Competitive Edge program met or exceeded the five goals set five years ago.

The amount of money generated by 44,000 new jobs is staggering. Conservative estimates say those workers will spend more than $662 million in the region. The housing industry would benefit, car dealers would roar and grocers would also cash in.

The group also wants to increase Wake County's industrial commercial tax base by $2.75 billion.

So why should you care? That adds up to money for new schools, to fix roads and even hire more police officers. The money would also help a number of programs whose budgets are decided by the city and county.

Of the new jobs, 25,000 are targeted for information technology, life science, and software development industries. The remaining 19,000 are support jobs.

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Len Besthoff, Reporter
David Renner, Photographer
Michelle Singer, Web Editor

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