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State of the Triangle? 'It's on Fire. It's Smoking,' Says Research Region's Top Exec

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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Charles Hayes, chief executive officer of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, broke into a huge smile when asked to describe the state of the triangle.

"It's hot," he exclaimed. "It's smoking!"

Haynes and the regional partnership leadership painted a picture of strong economic growth and predicted even more expansion at the organization's third "State of the Research Triangle Region" briefing on Thursday morning. Nearly 800 business leaders jammed a conference area at the Sheraton Imperial to hear Hayes and Ted Abernathy, the group's executive vice president, tout the region's economy that covers 13 counties.

Some 43,000 jobs have been created over the past two years, Hayes said. And more could be on the way.

"Our office is working with client companies that represent nearly $5.2 billion in potential investment and 8,500 new jobs for our region," he disclosed.

"The pipeline is larger than at any time of the 10 years we have been in existence," Hayes said of the Research Triangle group, which is a public-private partnership. "The Research Triangle region in particular is attractive. It is a competitive place to do business, and we appeal to knowledge-based industries because of our workforce. That's where we want to grow."

Various media reports have cited North Carolina, if not the Triangle region, as the potential home for new plants and offices ranging from vaccine production facilities to financial services.

The General Assembly is also being asked to double - to $30 million - the funding available for use in industrial recruitment. Other legislation calls for more state matching funds to be awarded to startup funds involved in technology transfer and development as well as a cut in sales taxes for equipment purchases made by research and development companies.

Lenovo's recent decision to build its new headquarters campus in Morrisville is just one example of the region's drawing power for new jobs. United Therapeutics recently disclosed plans to build a $50 million plant in Durham. And Credit Suisse is spending $40 million to expand its new facility in RTP.

Abernathy presented a laundry list of statistics showing growth in jobs, in wages, in housing prices, in venture capital and in several other categories to document the breadth and depth of economic growth.

"The news is clearly good," Harvey Schmitt, president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, told WRAL Local Tech Wire. "It's more like the '90s."

The pace of growth also presents challenges for the region, however. Said Schmitt: "The biggest risk is in keeping up with the growth in terms of infrastructure so we don't lose the quality of life we have."

Abernathy agreed that infrastructure demands had to be met. He also called on regional leaders to continue pushing for improvements in education.

Shortfalls that need to be addressed include more research and development investments from business firms, Abernathy added. "Manufacturing jobs are a commodity, and they will move as a matter of costs," he said. "We want corporate as well as university R&D. Those (jobs and companies) tend to stay where the technology is developed."

The regional partnership is driving a five-year $5 million plan to create 100,000 jobs across all 13 counties. Counties include Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake and Warren.

The 2006 update may be viewed online at


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