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I-Cubed Grows Despite Economy

It could take years to make-up for all the jobs lost since the Recession.  Since December 2007, North Carolina has lost more than 300-thousand jobs. President Barack Obama says “Innovation” is the key to NEW economy jobs.

Pres. Barack Obama:  "We know what we have to do to create jobs right now.  And create jobs in the future.  We know that if we want businesses to start here and stay here and hire here, we’ve got to be able to out build and out educate and out innovate every country on earth!"

Mr. Obama made that remark just a short distance away from N-C State’s Centennial Campus in Raleigh.  That’s where I-Cubed is located.  Company leaders say their strong heritage of innovation has helped them weather the economic downturn.

The atmosphere in the I-Cubed office is pretty laid back.  Almost everybody wears jeans – even the President and C-E-O – Donald Thompson Jr.

Donald Thompson Jr.:  "One of the things that is a nice thing, isthat the dress code I would definitely say is business casual.  We don’t typically like flip-flops necessarily but we want people to be comfortable and productive."

Thompson doesn’t mind putting on a tie, though.

Thompson:  "But when there are clients that want to spend a couple of million bucks with us, we’ll dress up!"

Despite the attire - Thompson says their sleeves are always rolled up – developing computer software and systems to help companies run better. They’re willing to do what some other companies won’t do.

Thompson:  "We decided that we might have to take a little bit less profit in the short term for longer term contracts that would help us weather the storms that we’ve all been through over the last couple of years."

I-Cubed was founded by N-C State Graduate Grant Williard in 1984.  Thompson has been with the company for 16 years. 

Thompson:  "In that period of time the company has had to have several different points of reinvention.  And so I certainly would say that I-Cubed is an innovative organization in that we have been able to see technology trends and develop products and or services that take advantage of those trends."

Five years ago – I-Cubed had a staff of fewer than 20 people. Today – there are about 80 employees at the Centennial Campus office. And Thompson says – they’re hiring.  But innovation comes at a price.  You can’t just walk off the street and get a job at I-Cubed or any of the other similar companies in the Research Triangle Region where the unemployment rate is lower than in the rest of the state.  Al Delia is senior advisor to Governor Bev Perdue.  He says the jobs-skills imbalance is a challenge.

Al Delia:  "That’s the challenge right now.  We are still an economy in transition.  NC probably as much so as any state in the union - and until we make that transition, until we have more of our young people focusing on innovation, focusing on science, technology, engineering and math skills, we will continue to have more jobs than we have people to fill."

Tony Pease is Vice President of Business Development for I-Cubed.  He joined the company in 2005.

Tony Pease:  "You know what I tell people, is if they want a challenge that they’re not sure they can handle, then come get it!"

Just make sure you’ve got the skills and not just the drive.

Leoneda Inge is WUNC’s race and southern culture reporter, the first public radio journalist in the South to hold such a position. She also is co-host of the podcast Tested and host of the special podcast series, PAULI. Leoneda is the recipient of numerous awards from AP, RTDNA and NABJ. She’s been a reporting fellow in Berlin and Tokyo. You can follow her on Twitter @LeonedaInge.
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