Business progressivism resurrected

by YES! Staff

It was a strange sight to see Gov. Pat McCrory clapping President Obama on the back as he arrived in North Carolina to launch the Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute last week, and the two of them grinning like old friends.

No, take that back. These are strange times for us to find it incongruous that a Republican governor and Democratic president would find common cause in celebrating an initiative with promise to aid the constituents they share in common. It’s not so different than rock-ribbed conservative members of the Forsyth County Commission and progressive city council members sharing the dais when Inmar announced a couple years ago that it was expanding its headquarters in Winston-Salem. Both government boards supported incentives to support the company, and they all basked in the glow of success together.


Progressive or conservative, despite the recent hard times, we know that there’s something special about North Carolina’s dynamic economic culture. It’s why the population of our state has been briskly growing for the past two decades.

During his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama announced plans to set up at least 15 manufacturing hubs across the nation to foster collaboration between research universities and businesses that are hiring new employees to advance manufacturing in a number of different areas. No one should be entirely surprised that the president selected North Carolina — and let’s be honest with ourselves, specifically, the Triangle — to launch one of the institutes.

North Carolina pioneered this model. “Here at NC State, you know something about innovation,” Obama said. He added, “Companies like Cisco and IBM, they come to this school when they’re looking to hire because of the quality of the engineering program.”

The infrastructure behind that arrangement was put in place in the late 1950s when some of the state’s most forward-looking political, business and academic leaders conceived of Research Triangle Park to draw on the strengths of business and three universities, including NC State. Future tenants of the research park included — wait for it — Cisco and IBM. And more than a few of the companies that made their home at RTP have made their bread and butter from federal contracting.

It’s not a new idea, but kudos to the president for recognizing one with a track record of success.

We should all be proud that North Carolina has been chosen for a manufacturing hub and that we have Research Triangle Park, the latter of which helped spawn Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in Winston-Salem and Gateway University Research Park in Greensboro.

And we get a piece of the action in the Triad, too, considering that Greensboro-based RF Micro Devices is among 18 businesses taking part in the consortium. They will be developing semiconductors that “deliver superior power density, improved power efficiency and higher switching frequencies.”

Full speed ahead.

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