Regional Business and Community Leaders Convene to Plan for a Green Future

Research Triangle Region, N.C. (January 26, 2013) - More than 200 people convened Jan. 26 in Raleigh for a regional summit to examine how preserving green spaces across the 13-county Research Triangle Region can help ensure its competitive future.

Open space preservation and conservation is an essential component of economically viable communities and regions,” Charles A. Hayes, president and CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP), told participants at the summit, “A Green Future for Economic Development: The Dollars and Sense of Open Space.”

“Our region's product-development strategy is to preserve and enhance the regions competitive business climate, infrastructure and quality of life,” Hayes said. “As our region grows by 1.2 million new residents by 2025, maintaining our quality of life will be vital to ensure we continue to attract the talented workforce we need to be globally competitive.”

The green space summit was the latest regional gathering to implement the recommendations developed by business and community leaders at the February 2009 Reality Check visioning exercise. Reality Check yielded three guiding principles that the region’s communities are following to promote quality growth: improving regional transit, creating vibrant town centers;  and preserving green spaces, agricultural land and resources, especially water supply and quality.

The Jan. 26 summit was designed to advance the regional conversation about the role of green spaces within the life and economy of the region. Keynote speakers included leading national experts in the role and contributions of green spaces to promoting economic growth: Chuck Flink, founder and president of Greenways Inc., and Ed McMahon, the Urban Land Institute Charles Frazer Senior Resident Fellow. The summit highlighted those benefits and provided participants access to green space planning resources.

“Green space” refers to the full spectrum of open lands and spaces in a region: wetlands, lakes, rivers, creeks, floodplains, stream banks and shorelines; city parks and greenways; farms, managed forests and hunting lands; natural areas and nature preserves; and pocket parks, town squares and community gardens.

The Research Triangle Region’s green spaces vary in size, shape and context, from stream buffers, greenways and nature trails to large-acre parcels of farm and forest conservation easements, from half-acre urban community gardens to the 5,600-acre Umstead State Park.

These spaces offer economic, environmental and social benefit and impact. For instance, the region receives more than $17 billion in related tourism income, $4.3 billion from hunting and fishing, and $916 million from outdoor recreation. Meanwhile, North Carolina is home to 120 plant and animal species that are found nowhere else in the world, as well as eight of the top most endangered ecosystems in the country.

Despite the current economic recession, three out of four N.C. voters believe that land and water conservation funding should remain a priority, summit leaders said.

Among its recommendation, the Research Triangle Region’s quality growth task force recommended that all communities in the region endorse green space conversation as a guiding principle of land use planning and decision making; that private landowners receive education on the financial benefits of voluntary green space conservation; that the region pursue innovative conservation strategies; and that community standards and ordinances reflect conservation of valuable green space as a priority.

For more information or to get involved in the regional quality growth initiative, visit or contact Pam Wall, RTRP vice president for product development, (919) 840-7372 ext. 24 or

The Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP) is a public-private partnership that coordinates economic development for the Research Triangle Region, home of The Research Triangle Park and the 13 central-North Carolina counties of Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake and Warren. For more information, visit