Category Archives: Triangle Area Economy

Raleigh’s economy ranks 2nd in nation, and NC State had a lot to do with it, report says

“Our great universities are the backbone of our economy! Because of the universities, we got RTP, and maybe Apple, Amazon etc…..certainly countless other tech jobs. This is the BEST use of our taxpayer dollars,” states Becky Harper of Harper Tate Homes, Re/Max United.

Raleigh has climbed higher up a list of the nation’s top cities for creating and keeping quality jobs, and N.C. State University is given significant credit for the city’s economic success.

The Raleigh Metropolitan Statistical Area ranked 2nd on the list of best-performing cities for 2017, according to the Milken Institute, a California think tank. The City of Oaks climbed four spots from the No. 6 ranking it held in both 2015 and 2016.

The index of top cities is designed to show how metro areas stand relative to others in the nation in terms of economic vitality. It measures growth in terms of jobs, wages, salaries and technology output, with an emphasis on employment growth.

The Provo-Orem, Utah area –home to Brigham Young University – topped the list after a second-place ranking in 2016.

Raleigh and No. 3 Plano-Irving, Texas, offer more welcoming business climates and lower costs than coastal tech cities, the report said. “Raleigh’s research and development-driven industries” contributed to its rise.

The report notes that while the Triangle is home to several major universities, N.C. Statewas the only local school to place in the top 25 of Milken’s 2017 index of the best universities for technology transfer and commercialization.

“The university’s Centennial Campus, which now houses more than 75 research centers and academic departments alongside a similar number of private, nonprofit, and government partners, expands the ability of academics and industry to collaborate and innovate,” the report says of N.C. State. “Through co-op and internship programs, the school creates strong ties to local industry, and tightens the relationship between curriculum and career by introducing students early to real-world applications and challenges.”

The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia area was the only other North Carolina MSA to make the top 25. Charlotte came in 13th, dropping one spot from its 2016 ranking.

Durham-Chapel Hill (ranked 106th) dropped 21 spots, Winston-Salem (121st) dropped 17, and Greensboro-High Point (142nd) fell 21 spots from 2016.

BY AARON MOODY, News&Observer

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The Triangle is going to grow — a lot. Embrace it.

More than half of us now live in cities with urban areas accounting for 80 percent of global GDP, according to a recent report by the United Nations. Seventy percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050, putting huge strains on our current infrastructure — with potential to exacerbate environmental, transportation, health, crime, and inequity challenges.

Here in North Carolina, the Raleigh metro area is expected to grow 72 percent in the next 25 years from 1.27 million residents to 2.2 million, making it the third-fastest growing metro in the country (behind Austin, Texas and Fort Myers, Florida) according to a study by American City Business Journals. The Durham-Chapel Hill metro is expected to expand 36 percent (from 552,000 residents to 753,000).

For many, these are alarming statistics, and, without proper planning, our collective quality of life will be significantly compromised. But with foresight and continuous innovation, there may be opportunities to increase living standards for all.

One potential pathway is to embrace scale rather than reject it. Research by Geoffrey West and Luis Bettencourt, for example, shows that cities produce more units of output for each unit of input. In other words, a dollar spent on investment produces more than a dollar back on key economic indicators like GDP, wages, and patent creation.

Cities are also much more efficient, with residents using less energy per capita and needing fewer capital investments like roads, electric lines, etc. West and Bettencourt make clear, however, that these benefits will only be gained through innovation versus maintaining the status quo.

This is particularly true of our most vulnerable communities. Without break-through ideas focused on balancing economic growth with economic inclusion, we risk widening racial wealth gaps and accelerating gentrification and displacement.

A recent study by economists Berkes and Gaetani finds that clustering of high-tech innovation in cities has increased economic segregation — a trend that Richard Florida delves into in his new book The New Urban Crisis.

But what if innovation can improve equity? The company Kasita, for example, has created inexpensive micro-housing units that are stand-alone or can stack to form apartments. Matched with proper zoning, the right financing opportunities (including helping families and individuals establish stronger credit), and creative urban planning, housing solutions like Kasita could increase opportunities for home ownership.

The reduced cost of solar energy and innovative approaches to storing and distributing energy also provide an exciting opportunity to increase access to renewable energy, create jobs, boost local ownership opportunities (through employee owned co-ops), and cut the cost of energy.

To date, the sharing economy (examples include Lyft and AirBnB) have principally benefitedthe wealthy. But there is huge upside to be gained by expanding the shared economy into lower-income communities, including jobs with flexible hours, supplemental income opportunities, and more direct, less expensive transportation options in currently under-connected communities. Recognizing this, Los Angeles introduced a pilot program to put 100 car-share vehicles in low-income communities, and Minneapolis is subsidizing bike-share memberships and driving outreach efforts in poor neighborhoods.

In San Diego, a recent upgrade to 14,000 smart street lights is expected to save $2.4 million per year. It has also spurred the deployment of over 3,000 additional sensor nodes that can support a range of applications, including air quality sensing and gunshot detection – increasing quality of life and public safety across the city.

And cities globally are investing in urban farming strategies to create jobs, increase access to healthy food, and serve as learning laboratories.

These are all promising trends. As the United Nation’s New Urban Agenda makes clear: to thrive as a society we need to create sustainable communities for all.

BY CHRISTOPHER GERGEN AND STEPHEN MILLER, News & Observer

As the Triangle drifts, a growth tsunami looms

Wake Up Wake County, the advocacy group that promotes careful development in one of the nation’s fastest growing counties, held a seminar last week at WakeMed. It took place in the hospital’s conference center, but maybe it should have been in the Emergency Room. When it comes to growth, the Triangle is in serious condition.

Advocates and county and municipal officials turned out for the seminar titled: “Our future: Growing smart with housing and transit.” The keynote speaker was Chris Zimmerman, an economist and former Arlington County, Va., elected official who is now with the organization Smart Growth America.

Between the slides and hopeful talk of well-designed growth, it was hard to stifle a sense of gloom. Transit boosters, local officials and planners are trying to get ready for the people to come, but the truth is Wake County and the Triangle aren’t ready and may never be.

Wake County alone is projected to add more than 200,000 people in the next 10 years. The Triangle’s overall growth could double that. One doesn’t need to be a sentimentalist clinging to the disappearing, small-city Triangle to look ahead and think, “uh-oh.”

67 people a day

We are already familiar with the oft-repeated statistic that Wake County is growing by 67 people a day. Now the greater Raleigh area has made the cut for the top 20 places where Amazon wants to build its second headquarters. If we win, it will bring growth of truly Amazonian proportions – 50,000 jobs and probably the same number of cars. The jobs will pay well, but also will drive up rents and home prices.

Most experts think the Triangle won’t win the bid because we are still too small and lack a mass-transit system. But Bloomberg News reported last week that North Carolina is in the running for another giant headquarters: Apple. If Apple builds its fourth headquarters in North Carolina, it may well come to the Triangle.

Growth isn’t a bad thing in itself. I was a newcomer once, arriving here in 1991. Wake County has grown by a half million people since then. I’ve seen the changes, most of them good – better stores, restaurants, entertainment and culture.

But now the national economy is soaring and growth here is accelerating faster than it can be accommodated. Wake County and the Triangle are attracting both aspiring millennials and retiring boomers. In between are young families with children adding to a Wake County school system that is growing by more than 2,000 students annually.

Signs of trouble

In the face of this growth there are signs of trouble. The Triangle has failed to create a regional government that can coordinate growth. The Raleigh City Council is at Ground Zero of the boom, but can’t manage to approve such obvious steps as allowing smaller backyard dwellings to increase housing density. And the state is going ahead with plans to complete the 540 Loop in southern Wake County. That 28-mile, $2.2 billion highway extension will fuel sprawl even as the Republican-led General Assembly is sharply limiting its support for light rail.

Zimmerman said growth can’t be stopped, but it can be managed. He said that requires that local officials think far ahead, innovate and move fast. Once the surge is on top of you – when traffic is gridlocked and affordable housing is available only on the far outskirts of a city – it’s too late.

In North Carolina, local responses to growth are limited by state law that gives the legislature final say over such tools as impact fees and affordable housing requirements. Zimmerman said Virginia’s cities face the same restraints, but Arlington worked around them by offering developers more of what they wanted in return for more of what the city needed. Arlington was also able to control growth by concentrating new offices and mid-rise housing around Metro rail stops. Wake County lacks a light rail system, but could concentrate new development around a coming network of rapid transit bus lines.

Transit is a key to smart development, Zimmerman said, but what people young and old want most are “things closer together.” They want to walk, whether from home to work, or restaurant to theater.

“What it really comes down to,” he said, “is walkability.”

What it needs to begin with, on the part of government and residents alike, is urgency and flexibility.

By: NED BARNETT, News & Observer