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Conference Has New 'Vision' for N.C. Economy

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CARY — Flooding has wiped out part of eastern North Carolina's economy. Businesses may never reopen, and farmers may not be able to start over again. However, the crisis may become an opportunity for those willing to grab hold.

The Vision 2030 Conference is looking at a new economy based on technology rather than agriculture. Work has been under way for months.

"The point that you get from all these hearings is the urgency of it. The urgency was there before these great storms. Now, it's compounded," said Dr. William Friday, President EmeritusUNC.

State leaders say there were problems before. Now, much of eastern North Carolina will have to be rebuilt.

"A triple whammy has been hitting the East. Tobacco, depressed commodity prices, loss of jobs in traditional industries. Add this on top of it, and it's enormous proportions," said Rick Carlisle,Secretary of Commerce.

Vision 2030 is a nine-month project looking at the economic future of North Carolina.

Flood-ravaged areas of the East are already economically depressed. With investment and worker training, it could come back stronger than ever.

"We ought to be thinking not just replacing what we've got with the same stuff, but a new economy, new kinds of jobs for the future," saidGov. Jim Hunt.

Hunt and other leaders say education is the key to making the change.

North Carolina joins a handful of other states which are actively planning the move to a knowledge-based economy.

The process involves leaders from government, industry and education and concludes next year.