January Program Recap: Emerging Industry Trends in the Triangle

The Research Triangle Chapter of the Society of Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) just hosted another great lunch program at the PNC Arena highlighting emerging industry trends in our region. Lee Anne Nance, who helped lead economic development at the regional and local levels and now serves as the Chief Strategy Officer for Stewart, moderated a terrific panel of speakers.  The panel included Susan Sanford, Executive Director of the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster, Larry Steffann, Co-Founder of the NC Regional Internet of Things (RIoT) and General Manager of the Wireless Research Center and Michael Haley, Executive Director of Wake County Economic Development.  Lee Anne, Susan, Larry and Michael each shared insights into what makes this region special and where some of the most promising opportunities for growth are emerging.

Lee Anne opened the program by encouraging us to consider how this region has transformed, reminding us to think back 10 years ago and posing the question of who really understood social media, Uber, clean tech or the Internet of Things. Throughout the wide-ranging program, Lee Anne offered great insights and connections, reminding us of how the Triangle continues to evolve to remain a global leader across a number of emerging technologies.

Susan spoke of how cleantech, which is broadly defined as products and services designed to reduce waste, save money and use energy, transportation and water resources more efficiently, has become one of the fastest growing sectors in the Triangle’s economy. She shared how the Triangle is now recognized as a global cleantech leader.  As one example, Susan mentioned that a local cleantech company, PowerSecure, was selected to work with the US Army Corps of Engineers to re-build and make more resilient the entire electric grid in Puerto Rico.

Larry Steffann spoke about the Wireless Center of North Carolina, which is located and supported by the Town of Wake Forest, winning a grant to help advance cutting-edge wireless technology development. The not-for-profit Center serves as an incubator for companies developing next generation technologies by providing assistance in regulatory matters, research and development and state-of-the-art testing.  Larry mentioned two areas where this region stands poised to help lead: new applications for 5G wireless technology for manufacturing, transportation and other sectors and blockchain technology, which will go far beyond the existing to enable more secure transactions in finance, retail and healthcare.

Michael Haley spoke about this region’s continuing economic success across many sectors including financial technology, information technology, clean technology, life sciences technology and advanced manufacturing. He credited the region’s long-term partnerships among academia, government and industry (the Triple Helix model) as being key to what propels this region forward.  Michael also spoke about the Chamber’s focus on talent recruitment and development.  As a testament to the region’s popularity, Michael mentioned that over 67 people move to Wake County each day and these newcomers are adding to the deep talent pool that exists here.  He also mentioned that the broader region continues to supply talent to the marketplace, allowing us to compete with major markets throughout the US and overseas and ensuring our region continues to be mentioned as one of the top places to do business.

In the question and answer period, there was excellent discussion on matters relating to protecting information privacy, sharing prosperity more widely, maintaining adequate roads, schools and infrastructure in the face of rapid growth and ensuring technology still allows us to have meaningful jobs.  However, despite the challenges growth is bringing, it was generally acknowledged that this region has the “gray matter” and resources to be resilient and adaptive to ensure a better future for all.

– Contributed by Jim Nichols, O’Brien Atkins Associates, PA


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