Research Triangle Region Employment Grows by 36,447 in 2012, Continuing Two-year Recovery

May 23, 2013

Research Triangle RegionResearch Triangle Region, N.C. – Research Triangle Region employment grew by 36,447 in 2012, more than double the 2011 figure, continuing a two-year recovery. All 13 counties gained employment, unemployment fell to 8.1 percent in 2012 – and to 7.5 percent by the end of March – and annual layoffs skidded to 1,984, lower than any year since 1990. 

Key to the region’s economic and competitive health are its diverse, innovation-based economy and culture of “collaboratition” – that is, collaboration among competitor companies and the many public, private and academic partners that sharpen the region’s competitive edge, said Charles A. Hayes, president and CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP).

“Across our campuses, our communities, our companies and our clusters, ‘collaboratition’ is working, and it shows,” Hayes said. “Our regional economy continues to outperform other regions of our state, our nation and the world.”

Hayes spoke May 23 to more than 900 business and community leaders convened for the 2013 State of the Research Triangle Region event, co-hosted by RTRP with Duke Energy. The region is home to The Research Triangle Park (RTP) and 13 north-central counties of Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange, Person, Vance, Wake and Warren.

Collaboration Plus Competition Equals Innovation

Collaboration among competitors created the Research Triangle Region more than a half century ago. The tradition continues today, Hayes said.

“We work together in this region to build new solutions, new products, new industries, new markets, new wealth, new jobs and new modes of thinking,” said Hayes. “The end result is a regional economy that will continue to compete and win against any region in the world.”

Examples abound:

  • RTP-based BASF Plant Sciences, leader in yield-boosting agricultural biotechnology solutions, Cargill and Novozymes, one of Franklin County’s largest employers, are jointly developing a plant-based, eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels for making adhesives, paints and plastics.
  • Agricultural biotechnology giant Syngenta launched Syngenta Ventures to accelerate innovation in its industry by funding promising early-stage companies, such as Durham-based Metabolon, developer of a unique analytical platform for developing diagnostics.
  • InnerOptic Technology, an Orange County medical imaging firm spun out of a UNC-Chapel Hill discovery, is combining its ultrasound technology with medical tools developed by Tennessee-based Pathfinder Technologies to advance innovation, business opportunity and patient care.
  • GKN Driveline, major manufacturer of automotive driveline components, is investing $24 million to expand its Person County plant and create 131 jobs thanks to local, regional and state partners (N.C. Department of Commerce, N.C. Community College System, Person County, City of Roxboro, PSNC Energy and Duke Energy Progress) helping make the project financially feasible and the company globally competitive. 
  • Global life insurance leader MetLife Inc. will create 2,600 jobs in Wake and Mecklenburg counties with a $125 million investment to build a global technology and operations center in Cary with retail center and headquarters in Charlotte thanks to collaboration among economic development, government, community college, workforce and energy partners in both locations.
  • Preston Development Co. is creating a 7,000-acre technology/biotechnology “live-work-play” community, Chatham Park, in Chatham County with help from scores of public and private partners focused on making the site development ready.
  • Harnett County’s new venture with Campbell University’s new School of Osteopathic Medicine and Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton is creating a hands-on training environment at the hospital for Campbell’s third- and fourth-year medical students.
  • Johnston County’s hospital system, Johnston Health, is partnering with UNC Healthcare to bring expanded medical services, particularly specialized health care, to the fast-growing county.
  • Duke and N.C. State are among eight U.S. universities recruiting top international science and engineering students to their campuses as part of a global initiative of the National Academy of Engineering to spark game-changing innovations – one of more than 3,000 collaborative projects undertaken by researchers at Duke, N.C. State and UNC-Chapel Hill since 2008.
  • Teams from UNC-Chapel Hill are helping Warren County boost its economy by providing strategic and technical help in an action learning collaboration promoting entrepreneurship, agribusiness and community development.
  • Moore County, in the region’s southern tier, and its western neighbor, Montgomery County, are developing the Heart of North Carolina MegaPark, a 3,000-acre corporate park along the Interstate 73/74 corridor.
  • Moore and Lee counties have joined with Richmond County to the south to pursue the “Stronger Economies Together” sustainable agriculture initiative, with U.S. Department of Agriculture and N.C. Cooperative Extension Service support.
  • Franklin, Granville, Vance and Warren counties, in the region’s northern tier, continue marketing their network of high-quality industrial parks, Triangle North, created through a first-of-its-kind multi-county tax-base-sharing partnership.
  • Pittsboro in Chatham County and Sanford in Lee County have become N.C. Department of Commerce-certified retirement communities, showcasing the stellar and accessible housing, healthcare and recreational amenities available not only locally but in the broader region.

“Collaboratition” Propels Cleantech Cluster

One of the latest and most powerful examples of “collaboratition” is the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC), which is accelerating innovation and business development through the efforts of industry competitors with broad support from business, academic, government and nonprofit partners.

“The Cleantech cluster has exceeded our most ambitious expectations,” Hayes said.

RTRP first identified cleantech as an economic development priority in 2009. Since then, regional cleantech companies have announced more than $700 million in capital investments and 2,600 new jobs – nearly 12 percent of all regional investments and one in 10 jobs announced during the period.

Still, it represents only a fraction of the growth that is to come. The global utility industry alone expects to spend $1.5 trillion over the next five years to upgrade smart grid infrastructure. When it does, RTCC members want the industry to turn to regional companies for their technology, products, services and support.

In 2012, RTCC formed a board of directors with 11 globally recognized leaders and competitors: ABB Inc., Cisco, Duke Energy, Field2Base Inc., Power Analytics Corp., PowerSecure International, RTI International, SAS, Schneider Electric, Sensus and Siemens. Through their leadership, the region is bringing together existing companies and attracting new ones that can develop and offer the end-to-end solutions needed to meet the world’s sustainable energy and water needs.

In 2013, RTCC work groups are focusing on a list of tactics to expand the region’s global networks for research and business development; support and connect the region’s cleantech entrepreneurship community; attract talent; provide targeted workforce development; and facilitate industry-led discussions of effective public policies needed to support the growth of the cleantech economy. 

Building a Regional Brand

While local leaders know the Research Triangle Region economy is built on innovation, many outsiders do not. A new study shows that the region’s diversity, while an economic strength, presents a marketing challenge.

“We need to develop a single, reliable brand that applies across the region, from Wake to Warren counties, Aberdeen to Zebulon,” Hayes said. Regional branding will be a major focus in the year ahead, he said.

Informing the branding work will be a recently completed perception study funded jointly by RTRP, Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce and Research Triangle Foundation. Survey results revealed that respondents, in general, view the region favorably, think of the region as “smart,” and believe regional residents value and enjoy a balanced, high-quality, live-work-and-play lifestyle.

Beyond that, each describes the region differently. Some focus on friendliness, others on professionalism. But most do not describe the region’s diversity of industries, innovation-rich environment – both clearly part of the region’s competitive strengths – or an overarching vision.

“We come across as a bunch of trees, not a forest,” Hayes said. “We have an opportunity to align the region’s culture with a common purpose, to define what great thing we can do together, to engage in ‘collaboratition’ as we do, and build together from our collective strengths.”

Joining RTRP and Duke Energy as sponsors for the 2013 State of the Research Triangle Region were Platinum Sponsors GlaxoSmithKline and Wells Fargo and Gold Sponsors Edge4, Fifth Third Bank, NAI Carolantic Realty Inc., RTI International and Syngenta.

Download economic data and reports from the event at

The Research Triangle Regional Partnership leads economic development for the 13-county Research Triangle Region of North Carolina. Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp. is the largest electric power holding company in the United States, supplying and delivering energy to more than 7 million customers in six states in the Southeast and Midwest. 

For more information, contact the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, (919) 840-7372 or or visit

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Contact: Charles Hayes, (919) 840-7372,