Research Triangle Region Attracts International Attention and Investment

April 26, 2012

Research Triangle Region, N.C. – A solid reputation for pioneering innovative business-development strategies and a vibrant, innovation-based economy is attracting both international attention and new investment for the Research Triangle Region.

A recent invitation by the U.S. State Department for the region to tell its story in Asia demonstrates its growing recognition across the nation and around the world. A recent invitation by the U.S. State Department for the region to tell its story in Asia demonstrates its growing recognition across the nation and around the world. Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP) President and CEO Charles Hayes was invited to share the region’s economic development approach in March before high-level audiences across Thailand during an intensive 10-day mission hosted by the Thai-U.S. Creative Partnership. The U.S. Embassy joint venture formed in 2010 with the Royal Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs aims to promote innovation and business development between the two countries.

“Officials with our government believe our 13-county region stands out as a shining example of how collaborative, regionally based job-creation and business-development strategies offer the most viable blueprint for creating a culture of innovation and sustainable prosperity,” Hayes said. “The trip also provided ample evidence that the Research Triangle Region is an economic player on the global stage.” (Read Hayes’ guest opinion for the Triangle Business Journal on the experience.)

Indeed, new and expanding international companies announced nearly $580 million in new investment and 2,600 new jobs during 2010-2011. That represents 20 percent of all new investment ($2.8 billion) announced in the region during the past two years and one in five new jobs.

International companies as well as regional ones that conduct business in other countries contribute significant numbers of new jobs, promote economic growth and enhance the region's global connections and quality of life.

Connecting with opportunities around the world

RTRP and its economic development partners work in several ways to promote international business and trade. Chief among them is making and developing relationships with key contacts around the world by taking regional delegations abroad and hosting visiting delegations in the region. In the past year, RTRP has hosted eight international delegations with nearly 200 representatives – from France, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, international recruiting missions – to such destinations as China, Canada, France, Germany, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands and Scandinavia – help build the region’s global brand and connect it with business, government and academic leaders from throughout the world who are critical to business development.

Historically, RTRP focused its international recruiting on locations, such as Canada and northern Europe, that were longtime trading partners. More recently, however, economic developers have shifted their focus to regions that share targeted clusters.

The Alsace region of France, for instance, is home to a strong life science and technology cluster and a longtime regional partner. Alsace developers refer companies seeking a U.S. location to this region while Research Triangle Region economic developers refer companies interested in a prime European location to Alsace. Both regions become connected to important investment opportunities through this relationship.

The region’s newest cluster, CleanTech, is also extending the region’s international reach. The Research Triangle Region is a member of the International Cleantech Network (ICN), which meets at member locations throughout the year. The Research Triangle Region hosted ICN members at a four-day conference in the region in October. Regional representatives then traveled to Copenhagen in March for panels, workshops and site visits there. Ewan Pritchard of the National Science Foundation FREEDM Systems Center at N.C. State was a featured speaker.

“The ICN is an exclusive network of cleantech clusters in the world’s leading cleantech regions aiming to generate new business opportunities, enhance competitive advantages and create value for companies, knowledge institutions and local authorities across cluster regions,” says RTRP Vice President of Information Services Bo Carson, who also attended the ICN conference. “We are passionate about spotting what our cleantech players do best and then introducing them to the people who can help them develop further.”

Connections to China and other emerging markets are fostered by companies, such as Longistics, a global logistics services based in the region and its partner, Rare Bird Trading Co. Longistics recently established the Suzhou Industrial Park International Commodities Exhibition Center in Suzhou, China, to offer North Carolina companies an easy and cost-effective way to reach millions of new customers.

The center’s exhibition space serves as a forward-staging area for products and services for sale and distribution in China as well as re-export to other Pacific Rim countries. Exhibitors from the Research Triangle Region include Angus Barn, BJAC design firm and Turnberry Interior Design Group.

Rare Bird Trading Co. provides turnkey import and export services to companies doing business in China, helping them with logistics issues, such as clearing customs and storing, warehousing and distributing products.

Expanding trade and exports

Exports are a significant economic driver for North Carolina, supporting 350,000 jobs contributing more than $30 billion to the state’s economy. The region supports that trade with specialized chambers of commerce and nearly two dozen consulates and numerous trade, logistics and professional organizations and companies that support and promote global business development.

In May, for instance, the North Carolina District Export Council, Small Business and Technology Development Center and RTRP will join the U.S. Commercial Service to present Export 101 – Introduction to Exporting. The series of courses will provide expert advice to new-to-export firms, part of the National Export Initiative to double U.S. exports over the next five years.

Another important regional asset for companies wishing to operate or expand globally is Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) #93, which soon will expand its availability to all 13 counties in the region. An FTZ is a neutral, secured area legally outside of U.S. customs territory that offers economic advantages for businesses involved in international trade.

“The FTZ helps domestic companies stay competitive with companies that have gone offshore,” says FTZ administrator Pamela Davison. “It lowers the price of doing business and levels the playing field for companies that stay in the U.S., which ultimately saves jobs.”

Revlon in Granville County is an example of a company using FTZ #93 to its advantage. Revlon became a subzone of FTZ #93 in 2006, and since then has received exemption from payment of duty on many of the products imported to the United States that are used as components in Revlon cosmetic products. That helps lower its cost of manufacturing.

A new FTZ “Alternate Site Framework” will allow companies to locate a usage-driven FTZ site anywhere in the region’s 13 counties in addition to the current general purpose sites located near Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Davison says. “This change has a lot of impact for our companies and is an important recruitment tool our economic developers can use to attract new industries and encourage global expansion,” she says.

Creating jobs in companies, large and small

North Carolina ranks ninth in the nation for foreign-direct investment, employing more than 200,000 workers in various trades and with 3,564 companies representing nearly 50 countries. Nearly one in four (861) are located in the Research Triangle Region.

Many of the region’s biggest brands and top corporate community contributors are foreign-based: GlaxoSmithKline (United Kingdom), Saab Barracuda (Sweden), Novozymes and Novo Nordisk (Denmark), Lenovo (China) and AW North Carolina (Japan). Joining their ranks in recent years are such companies as ABB, Credit Suisse and Novartis (Switzerland), CertainTeed (France), Spuntech (Israel) and Deutsche Bank (Germany), Ming Yang Wind Power Group (China) and Aerocrine (Sweden). These companies support the region’s clusters and bring new energy and global linkages to the region.

Large corporations aren’t the only international enterprises in the region. Companies of every size in a wide range of industries thrive in all 13 counties.

In Orange County, family-owned Sports Endeavors is the world’s leading provider of equipment and information for grassroots soccer, lacrosse and rugby, with more than 300 employees.

In Moore County, the global headquarters for Eaton Golf Pride, a division of Eaton Corp., employs nearly 800 people. The company operates manufacturing, sales and distribution facilities in Taiwan, Thailand and England. Moore County is also home to the Technologies business segment of Ingersol Rand, which made a $2.7 million dollar expansion and added 98 jobs in 2010. Meridian Zero Degrees, an entrepreneurial company founded in Moore County in 1999, manufactures self-service kiosks for clients throughout the world.

Franklin County is home to the U.S. headquarters of four foreign-owned companies: K-Flex USA, Novozymes USA, Xerium Technologies and Palziv. The four companies employ 692 people.

The relationship between the region and its international companies is mutually beneficial, says Michael Haley, project manager for Wake County Economic Development.

“These companies come to our region for access to our highly skilled workforce, our three Tier 1 universities and other colleges, our community college system and our globally recognized clusters,” Haley says. “Once here, they attract talent, expand research and development horizons, bring new people to the area and expand our reach to their international locations.”

In addition, these companies are outstanding corporate citizens, says Ronnie Goswick director for Franklin County’s Economic Development Commission.

“All our foreign-owned companies are actively involved in community activities and contribute both time and money to local projects, from charitable fundraising to funding workforce training and equipment in the schools,” Goswick says. “They also bring diversity and cultural awareness to the region.”

Sports Endeavors in Orange County not only supports the local community, through participation in events such as United Way, Special Olympics, Meals on Wheels, Relay for Life and Race for the Cure, it exports community service and goodwill to other countries, says Orange County Economic Development Commission Director Steve Brantley. The company’s Passback Program outfits teams around the globe who are not able to afford equipment. It encourages customers to send in clean and still-playable shoes, balls, uniforms, shin guards and gloves. then redistributes the equipment to teams in need throughout the world.

Maintaining welcoming, diverse communities and culture

The Research Triangle Region enjoys an increasingly international culture thanks to its many global companies and its universities. Home to hundreds of international faculty members and more than 10,000 foreign students from 60 countries, Duke University, North Carolina State University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are involved in more than 500 formal research and programmatic partnerships around the world.

Regional leaders understand the importance of nurturing a culture and climate that is welcoming of international companies, visitors and workers, and they work actively to ensure it remains so. In March, for instance, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and the Partnership for a New American Economy presented an Immigration Forum to engage regional leaders in an in-depth look at how current immigration policies are affecting the nation’s economy and how smarter policies can help businesses expand, create American jobs and keep talent.

In addition, specialized educational programs prepare the region’s citizens for success in the global marketplace and promote intercultural awareness. They include the Centers for International Business Education and Research at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill, Confucius Institute at N.C. State, Center for International Understanding and the International Affairs Council.

For more information on what the region offers international companies, visit or contact RTRP at             (919) 840-7372      .

RTRP leads economic development for the Research Triangle Region of North Carolina, home of The Research Triangle Park (RTP) and the 13 north-central N.C. counties of Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake and Warren.