It’s been an incredible year for job creation and recruitment here. The Chamber‘s Wake County Economic Development (WCED) team has been at the center of several large jobs announcements for our region.
Our recruitment work secured key projects that will bring significant benefits for our area’s economic future. In May 2017, Trilliant Networks committed to move its global headquarters from Silicon Valley to Cary, planning to create 130 jobs. That same month, Credit Suisse announced it would add 1,200 jobs to Wake County.
We were there just this past April as the company broke ground on its expanded RTP campus. When completed, it will house up to 4,000 employees. Not long after the Credit Suisse announcement, Infosys announced in July 2017 that it would bring a 2,000-job tech hub to Raleigh. That represented one of the largest jobs commitments ever in the state of North Carolina. The Raleigh Chamber and its WCED team led a tremendous collaborative effort to recruit the company here. Then, in October 2017, our area got more good news when Victra announced it would bring 250 jobs to Raleigh.
Credit Suisse and Infosys show the benefits of WCED’s Foreign Direct Investment strategy. For the first time our area has a targeted, strategic effort around foreign direct investment. We are marketing the Research Triangle’s competitive advantages to a global audience through business development missions and to delegations that come to our area. It is paying off in job recruitment, retention, and investment. Today, there are 625 international companies located within the Research Triangle. Statewide, foreign-owned firms employ more than 250,000 North Carolinians and have contributed more than $14 billion to the economy in the last 11 years. Forty-two percent of the projects landed in Wake County since October 2015 are foreign-owned. To learn more, join us at our first Foreign Direct Investment Forum at Brier Creek Country Club on July 26, 2018 as we highlight Asian investment in the Triangle.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Wake County is growing by about 67 people a day. Half of those people have a bachelor’s degree or higher, so it is no wonder that companies are finding the talent here that they need to thrive. We are consistently ranked among the top labor markets in the U.S.
Not only are so many people in our area talented, they also are entrepreneurs. The Chamber nurtures that spirit of innovation in our community through our new partnership with Innovate Raleigh to provide resources and a collaborative atmosphere to entrepreneurs seeking to translate their ideas to viable business models. Bridget Harrington joined us as executive director of Innovate Raleigh in December 2017. Most recently serving for KPMG, Bridget brings with her more than 15 years of finance, operations, and marketing experience. The annual Innovate Raleigh Summit takes place on November 9 and we are excited to deliver such a dynamic, informative symposium for entrepreneurs in our area.
Small Business Focus
Small businesses are an integral part of our community. Nearly 80,000 Triangle residents are employed by small businesses. The Chamber offers new, free programs and services that help our small business community grow and flourish.
Our new Coffee with Leaders series is specifically for companies with fewer than 50 employees to hear from leaders chosen by the attendees on topics related to business leadership and community growth. Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane spoke to the group in March and Wake County Manager David Ellis joined us in May. These new events are a tremendous opportunity for small business owners to keep on top of important topics that impact them.
For the first time, we partnered with the City of Raleigh for Triangle Small Business Week during the week of April 29 – May 5. Fifteen events that week explored a range of topics pertaining to small businesses, including ideas for innovation, funding, and ways to champion women in the workplace.
We’re holding a half-day event filled with small business roundtables, networking opportunities, and plenty of ways to market your business on Aug. 16. BizFest allows you to connect with Raleigh professionals and learn about ways to grow your business. Table displays are available to share with the community what your company offers.
In February, WCED and partners released our Regional Workforce Skills Analysis. We surveyed businesses in a 15-county area surrounding Wake County. More than 500 businesses responded and we learned that nearly three-quarters of them expect to grow within the next three years. Companies most frequently look for workers with a four-year college degree, but there is a need for more workers with a technical education. Networks are the most important tool for sourcing talent and most businesses are recruiting from existing networks, employee references, and online tools. The results of this survey are valuable for the business community as they will learn hiring trends and challenges facing employee recruitment. You can see the results directly at www.raleigh-wake.org, in the Talent & Workforce section.
For any community looking to attract top talent, it’s imperative to have a strong record of diversity, equity, and inclusivity. This is a priority for our strategic plan and we have established an internal task force to assess our own practices. We welcomed Danya Perry to our staff in January as the equitable economic development manager. Danya’s work will mobilize communities across Wake County and identify ways to achieve equitable growth. On August 22, we will launch an annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusivity Conference. We are proud to be at the heart of efforts geared toward ensuring that this is a place that everyone will want to call home and where all Wake County residents can participate in our thriving economy.
Transportation and Mobility
Robust job creation means more people are moving through and around the Triangle. As Raleigh becomes a larger metro area, encouraging the implementation and expansion of regional transportation is even more vital. As a community, we also need to manage traffic and commute times. The work of the Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA), a program of the Raleigh Chamber, enhances the mobility of Triangle commuters.
The RTA team, led by Joe Milazzo, analyzes and determines wise infrastructure investments for our community and then advocates for them. We advance transportation solutions that help our business community attract top talent and grow our economy. Our top priority currently is to accelerate the construction of 540 to I-40 to ease traffic congestion and reduce travel times. We were excited to see the authorization for the project’s final environmental impact statement in December, eight months early.
Our mission has led to a number of other successes in the past year that benefit the business community. The NC General Assembly approved more than $30 million in annual recurring funds for RDU Airport to fund the Vision 2040 RDU Master Plan. State lawmakers also signed off on a $44 million annual recurring fund for low-cost congestion relief projects statewide, a concept RTA introduced to accelerate those projects. Wake Transit began implementation of the largest successful county transit referendum in state history. In October, Raleigh voters gave a green light to a $207 million transportation bond which will pay for a number of road widening projects and other upgrades. We also saw the successful implementation of on-ramp signals for I-540 in North Raleigh, easing congestion during busy commute times. Additionally, we are excited to see the beginnings of Raleigh’s bike share program.
We also had a successful Summit Series in May where business leaders collaborated to find transportation solutions to address challenges related to growth in our community. We will build on these ideas and will continue to advocate for effective transportation solutions that enhance our region.
Quality of Place
The Chamber actively represents the business community’s perspective on growth and prosperity. Our focus begins with our region’s future business leaders: today’s students in the Wake County Public School System. We are working with our community on a school bond referendum to enhance the educational experience for the growing number of students coming to Wake County.
We are working hard to keep our elected officials aware of the business community’s needs and concerns. Recently, we hosted our annual Legislative Reception, where Chamber members connected with members of the NC General Assembly. Decisions are made every day that impact the business community. The Chamber ensures that your thoughts are heard by the people that make those key decisions.
Today’s Raleigh Chamber is the hub of a network of business and community leaders who share a commitment to business profitability, growing a dynamic economy, and making our region the country’s best place to work and live. Your support helps us fulfill our mission. I welcome your thoughts about the future and direction of the Raleigh Chamber. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919.664.7020 if you’d like to talk. We appreciate your membership and your leadership in the business community.
President and CEO
Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce