Hoping to connect an inspiring North Carolina

January 25, 2013 

  • Find out more For more information on the “Pathways to Opportunity” tour, go to reimaginenc.com/tourreport/

Last fall, members of the Research Triangle Foundation went on the road across North Carolina. We went to see what is happening outside our region. We hoped to hear how RTP could help all North Carolina.

We called our tour “Pathways to Opportunity.” And we discovered many paths that North Carolina can take to a strong economic future.

In 2013, RTP will build on our tour. We will take on new roles as a convener, catalyst and connector.

At all 22 tour stops, we saw North Carolinians doing amazing things.

• N.C. A&T University, UNC-Greensboro, Action Greensboro, Guilford County and business leaders are banding together to promote innovation and industrial growth.

• Mother Earth Brewing is investing more than $2 million into reviving downtown Kinston. The company is buying old buildings and turning them into attractive, authentic showcases.

• The Manufacturing Solutions Center at Catawba Valley Community College solves production problems for local industries and comes up with new products and processes.

• Students who get associate engineering degrees at Nash Community College are automatically accepted into the College of Engineering at N.C. State University.

At every inspiring stop, we told people that RTP’s mission is not just to develop our 7,000 acres, but also to improve the quality of life for all North Carolinians. We asked how we can help.

In Elizabeth City, one person said, “The 21st century economy is new to many communities. We cannot even begin to compete in a world we don’t understand.”

RTP can be North Carolina’s connection to that world.

As a convener, we can bring together people from across the state and from business, education and government. We can host forums and town halls that foster collaboration. We can be a partner to communities across the state.

As a connector, we can help communities tell their stories to a global audience. We can build the North Carolina brand. We can help people across the state identify trends, challenges and opportunities.

As a catalyst, we can promote corridors of innovation across North Carolina. We can create a critical density of companies, academic institutions and talent. We can provide a physical space that is a vital, creative source of innovation.

Most of all, we can engage all North Carolinians in the cause of better education.

One of the speakers who moved me most was Cameron Carswell, a student at Appalachian State University. Cameron, who is president of the UNC system’s Association of Student Governments, reminded us of the power that an excellent education has to transform lives.

And I’m not talking about just science, technology, engineering and math education.

At several stops on our tour, I held up an iPhone, that ubiquitous modern tool that has transformed our lives and our economy. Yes, I said, designing the iPhone required scientists and engineers. But it also required people with liberal arts degrees to produce content. It required artists to produce designs, pictures and videos. It required people who understand other lands, languages and cultures.

We live in a smart world, and there is a premium for smart people. RTP is dedicated to helping North Carolina be even smarter.

Bob Geolas is president and chief executive officer of the Research Triangle Foundation, a private, not-for-profit organization promoting RTP.

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