DURHAM- Yearning for “The Show” was key to the movie classic “Bull Durham.” There’s now a new show – ‘The Durham Show’ – but it has little to do with baseball. Business. Big deal.
Ahead of its annual meeting on Wednesday, the chief economic development officer for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce sat down to talk about the state of the local economy and recent economic development wins with WRAL TechWire.
On your mind?
Nearly 4,000 jobs and more than $463 million in investments announced last year, for just 14 projects in total.
Ryan Regan, vice president of economic development at the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce, notes that since the start of April 2020, County Durham has landed 14 economic development projects which will involve the creation of at least 150 jobs in new or expanding businesses.
In total, Regan said, the region will create 6,900 new jobs from these 14 announcements. “This degree of economic development success is unprecedented in County Durham’s history,” Regan told WRAL TechWire.
A slightly edited Q&A with Regan follows.
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WRAL TechWire (TW): Keep us posted on last year’s economic development “victories”.
Regan: In 2021, 3,965 new jobs were announced associated with economic development projects in County Durham.
Total capital expenditures announced for these projects exceeded $463 million.
One example is Smart Wires, Inc., which announced in July that it will relocate its headquarters and build a new research and development facility in County Durham.
Smart Wires is a clean technology company working to improve the efficiency of electrical transmission networks. The Durham plant will employ 250 people who will be hired over the next five years.
TW: What is the state of the Durham labor market? How has the population changed? Are there measured changes in household income or other economic indicators in the area?
Regan: Macroeconomic indicators specific to County Durham are quite strong. the unemployment rate in December 2021 was 2.6%, the lowest since 1999, according to the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
the poverty rate for all residents has fallen 5.4 percentage points since 2015, and the poverty rate for children under 18 has fallen nearly 10 points since 2015, according to the US Census Bureau.
And the average salary for private sector jobs in County Durham is $82,247 — the highest of any county in North Carolina, according to the North Carolina Department of Commerce’s Labor and Economic Analysis Division.
However, the bigger picture is more complicated, given the peculiarities of the workforce that have emerged in the time of COVID.
Our successes in economic development over the past few years have been significant and we are committed to working with our various workforce and small business development partners to ensure that all residents of County Durham can connect to this growth story.
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Where will all these people live?
TW: As new jobs are created, how could the region best prepare and/or provide access to affordable housing for all incomes?
Regan: The availability and affordability of housing is and will continue to be a critical factor in supporting our economic growth.
Our public partners are important allies in this conversation, and we appreciate their leadership on this issue. With the help of approved $95 million Affordable Housing Bond, local partners will build and preserve thousands of affordable housing units over the coming years for Durham residents.
The county is also pursuing its own solutions, including consolidating affordable housing around 2 new parking decks in downtown Durham.
It will take a creative approach from public and private partners to solve the housing shortage we currently face. A successful public/private creative approach can be seen in the development of HUB RTP.
This County Durham-backed project will include 1,200 new apartments and is the first time in the park’s more than 60-year history that people will be able to live at the RTP.
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Future of our local economy?
TW: What changes in the local economy can we expect in 2022?
Regan: Some transformational real estate development projects will emerge or gain momentum in 2022.
The RTP HUB development is a one-of-a-kind mixed-use development coming to Research Triangle Park.
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The expansion of the downtown American Tobacco Campus will infuse an already attractive section of downtown Durham with improved facilities for living, working and playing. [Editor’s Note: Capitol Broadcasting Company, the parent of WRAL TechWire, also owns American Tobacco Campus.]
These two development projects alone will add nearly 2.5 million square feet of office, residential, retail, laboratory and hotel space to the local market.
The developments will anchor the next decade of growth in County Durham.
The commercial space that both projects will add to our market in the years to come is critical as we seek to maintain an edge in the race for talent and jobs against competing communities across the country.
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The most notable victories?
TW: What are the most notable economic development projects announced recently, and why?
Regan: Google’s announcement that they would bring a 1,000-employee cloud engineering center to Durham is perhaps the most notable recent economic development announcement.
To have such a prominent member of the global business community invest so heavily in Durham is a big deal. The symbolism of their decision is also important.
Google didn’t just choose Durham, they chose Durham City Centre. Google’s move will be a boon to the downtown economy and help small businesses that have struggled during the Covid era get back on their feet.
Fidelity Investments’ multiple expansion announcements last year (2,250 jobs, cumulative) are also very impactful.
Seeing a longtime member of the local business community grow so quickly speaks volumes about our community’s overall competitiveness.
Fidelity Investments’ recent announcements are particularly noteworthy as they have focused their recruiting efforts on entry-level jobs accessible to a wide range of potential workers, including those most affected by Covid-related job losses.
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What’s going well?
TW: Which sectors of Durham’s economy and which sectors of industry are doing well – which are not doing so well – where are there opportunities?
Regan: The high level of education of County Durham residents, combined with the reputation of Research Triangle Park and the abundance of local and regional higher education assets, is helping to fuel strong local growth in highly skilled sectors like life sciences and technology.
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The biopharmaceutical industry is a ‘legacy’ industry in Durham that has long been the backbone of the local economy.
This industry has a location quotient of 12.8 in County Durham, meaning the industry is almost 13 times more concentrated in the county than nationally.
This incredibly high QL shows a clear competitive advantage for Durham that has only solidified in recent years as investment in life sciences has accelerated nationwide in response to the COVID pandemic.
The technology industry is Durham’s most up-and-coming industry.
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There was significant tumult in the global economy in 2020 as the economic effects of the pandemic took hold, but County Durham’s tech industry actually created 6,195 jobs from 2019 to 2020.
The number of jobs added in this industry was greater than all other industries in the county combined. These figures do not include Google’s announcement of 1,000 new tech jobs in 2021.
High-growth industries such as these create significant direct and indirect supply chain opportunities that benefit a range of local businesses.
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On education and labor
TW: What role will local educational institutions play in the future of Durham’s workforce and economy?
Regan: Our local and regional educational partners are by far those who have contributed the most to our recent success in economic development.
County Durham and the Triangle region are able to produce talent from regional institutions in numbers that few other places in the country can match.
The inherent diversity of student populations at Durham’s educational institutions is also a major strength as more companies focus their efforts on tapping into diverse talent pools.
Our higher education partners in the community are deeply connected to the needs of local businesses, and collectively the two groups work to prepare students for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
For example, NCCUs state-of-the-art cybersecurity lab will prepare students for jobs in a growing industry in the Triangle region.
Durham Tech also has a number of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship agreements with dozens of local employers that allow students to receive hands-on professional training that can translate seamlessly into the world of work upon graduation. their degree.
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