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Raleigh Grows Despite Recession

The recession that began four years ago is still holding many communities across the country hostage.  Homes continue to fall into foreclosure and long-term employees are again looking for work.  But there are some areas in the United States that are recovering quite well during this down-turn.   And one of those metropolitan areas includes Raleigh.

In case you missed it – the capital city of Raleigh has made another top- ten list.  This fall, Businessweek-dot-com named Raleigh “America’s Best City.”  The report said if you count up the restaurants, museums, proximity to great research institutions and green space, Raleigh easily rivals big cities like New York and Los Angeles.  You could say – Raleigh has a LOT to cheer about!

Ragsdale Cheerleaders:  "Hey, go Tigers, Let’s Go Tigers!"

Earlier this month more than 2,000 high school cheerleaders from across the state jumped, flipped, danced and shouted to the rafters at the Raleigh Convention Center.  It was the annual North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s cheerleading championships.   Davis Whitfield heads the association.

Davis Whitfield:  "And look at this wonderful atmosphere, look at the stage and the way this facility is set up. It’s a big time event. It’s a big time competition."

This relatively new facility in downtown Raleigh gets a lot of the credit for luring tens of thousands of people to the area.   During the 2010 – 2011 fiscal year, just over 108-thousand people attended competitions, conventions and trade-shows.  That number quadruples if you count heads that have stopped by for meetings, banquets, political events, and the list goes on.  Mitch Silver is the Chief Planning and Economic Development officer for Raleigh.

Mitch Silver:  "Whether it’s Forbes, BusinessWeek, MSNBC, CNN I can just roll off all of them, and whether it is the Best Place to Live, Raise a Family, if you’re single, to Meet Someone, to Be an Entrepreneur, The Best Place to Live, ranks Raleigh at the top."

The city of Raleigh recently got a reminder of WHY it makes all these lists. Numbers crunched by the U-S Bureau of Economic Analysis show Raleigh sits in one of five big metropolitan areas in the country whose Gross Domestic Product grew by more than 10-percent during the recession.  That compares to 2-point-5 percent for metro areas overall. These are Metropolitan Statistical Areas with populations of over one million people as designated by the federal government.  Silver says it’s about the power of innovation in this region.

Mitch Silver:  "One thing that makes Raleigh unique is we have a relationship between business, government and the research universities. And so those three combinations make us very strong and very attractive and very competitive."

N-C State University plays a major role in making the Raleigh area attractive – especially for aspiring entrepreneurs. Its Centennial Campus has been home to innovative companies like Red Hat and I-Cubed. And one year ago, Tom Miller helped open “The Garage.”

Tom Miller:  "You know I’m trying to create an environment where the next Red Hat or the next SAS of the next Cree could happen as an idea.  Maybe nobody believes in in the beginning, but it takes hold."

Miller is director of N-C State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative.  He says “The Garage” is an informal, relaxed space so students can come up with the next Big Thing.  James Sauls is director of Raleigh Economic Development – a program of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.   It’s his job to recruit new businesses and help existing ones do big things.  Sauls says he makes sure there is a diverse mix of industries, and that’s why Raleigh stays on top ten lists.

James Sauls:  "What it does is give us a good opportunity to look at some of the growth trends that we are experiencing.  We feel that we do have a diverse economy with several different industries here which has probably helped us come through the recession as noted in the study."

By the way – Sauls says one of the industries that’s caught people’s attention is all the growth in Clean Energy and Green Technology.  Turns out – Raleigh is number two for the top Smart Grid Clusters in the country.  I guess it’s okay to be number two sometimes.

Leoneda Inge is the co-host of WUNC's "Due South." Leoneda has been a radio journalist for more than 30 years, spending most of her career at WUNC as the Race and Southern Culture reporter. Leoneda’s work includes stories of race, slavery, memory and monuments. She has won "Gracie" awards, an Alfred I. duPont Award and several awards from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association (RTDNA). In 2017, Leoneda was named "Journalist of Distinction" by the National Association of Black Journalists.
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