Keep your eyes on the horizon and you’ll feel better. It’s the telltale advice that anyone who has ever been deep-sea fishing or sailing in rough seas has heard.
This advice is particularly relevant during the current economic storm. While the waves are high around the boat, we must do what we can in the near-term to stay afloat, while keeping our eyes fixed on the horizon. This means being agile and disciplined while capitalizing on opportunities that could make us stronger in the future.
What does this mean for North Carolina, and specifically the Carolina Core?
There is no doubt that the current health crisis will pose significant challenges, particularly in the near term with increased uncertainty in the absence of a vaccine. The lost earnings, layoffs and businesses permanently closing their doors will add up. Certain industries face a particularly steep uphill climb, like retail, hospitality and aerospace, among others. Other industries may see a resurgence because of changes in market demands, like manufacturing, biotechnology, health care and logistics.
So how can our region reach the other side of this storm positioned to flourish in the future?
First, North Carolina and the region were on solid foundation before the novel coronavirus pandemic. North Carolina is consistently ranked one of the best states for business with competitive incentives, low taxes and costs, first-rate infrastructure and an excellent quality of life. Also, thanks to the foresight of state leaders, our fiscal house is in order with a sizeable rainy day fund, while other states faced steep budget deficits before the pandemic.
Second, in the Carolina Core, our diverse industry base has built a resilient economy. From production to office operations, industries in the region are supported by a skilled and plentiful workforce, central location and market access. In fact, the recently released COVID-19 Vulnerability Index by Chmura Economics projects our region will fare better than the national average in job losses because of our diverse industry mix.
The Carolina Core has also experienced momentum because of a unique combination of diverse assets — from megasites to Class A office space, from bustling metros to rural communities. In our region, businesses and people can access North Carolina’s fast-growing metros, while still benefiting from the quality of life of midsized cities and small towns. This diversity, as well as the significant public and private sector investments in infrastructure, sites and workforce development, will help support our recovery and economic growth for years to come.
Out of adversity often comes opportunity. With an eye to the horizon, how can we seize new opportunities that will emerge from this time that has battered much of our country?
There are several trends that will benefit the Carolina Core and we must focus on capturing them for our region. Whether it’s the demographic trend of people leaving the country’s more densely populated cities in search of medium-sized metros or small towns; a change in supply chain that prefers “Made in USA” products; an increased reliance on technology and e-commerce, boosting logistics and distribution; or opportunities for biotechnology and pharmaceutical production. These trends were already being identified before the pandemic. Now they need to be pursued with a new focus and intensity.
Together, we will chart a plan to emerge stronger than before. Regional cooperation has reached an all-time-high in the Carolina Core. Leaders are working together to collectively promote our region and attract new businesses and jobs. We believe in the notion that we are stronger together and a win for one is a win for all. This spirit of collaboration is more important now than ever as we face the recovery ahead.
Not everyone will weather the current storm, but thankfully for North Carolina, and our region, we have a solid foundation. From our companies to our people to our smart investments in our communities, the Carolina Core is a future-ready region brimming with opportunity. We are poised to be the next engine of growth for North Carolina. This is what’s on the horizon. In the near term, we will work together to innovate and seize opportunities to ensure we not only stay afloat but thrive.
The Piedmont Triad Partnership, an organization composed of business, higher education and economic development leaders, is committed to this endeavor.