Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Brooks Raiford, President, Chief Executive Officer of the North Carolina Technology Association, via Zoom and filmed the seventeenth edition in a video series called Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.
Over the last 30 years, Raiford has served in roles that have helped support economic development in North Carolina. Raiford became the president of the NC TECH in 2008.
NC TECH is a not-for-profit, membership-driven trade association and the primary voice of the technology industry in North Carolina. NC TECH’s mission is to foster growth and champion innovation in North Carolina’s tech sector, while providing a voice for the tech community. NC TECH’s membership includes more than 600 member companies, organizations and institutions employing more than 200,000 workers in North Carolina.
Raiford indicated the 30 year old statewide industry organization includes both tech industries and tech workers that are a part of other industries. Membership in NC TECH includes government, nonprofit, education, tech companies, and the health sector as well as many other tech enabled businesses and industries. He explained the main purpose of NC TECH is to be a convener and advocate for the tech sector. NC TECH has many programs from small niche events to large conferences.
In NC TECH’s advocacy role, the organization works with third-party consultants to create several informational materials, including The State of the Technology Industry Report. Raiford said this report details the impact of the technology sector on North Carolina. Three of the most impressive statistics from this report include that 21% of all sales generated come from the tech sector; 20% of all jobs come from the tech sector; and the tech sector has a 3.1 job multiplier effect.
Raiford shared that one of the revelations of the pandemic was the ability to “work from anywhere.” Raiford indicated that he has seen an uptick in interested small, rural towns on the N.C. shoreline connecting to that movement by promoting a great community to live in while you can have a remote job based anywhere. These communities are diversifying their economies by working to attract remote workers with their low cost of living and natural resources.
Other ways the tech sector is affecting rural areas is through agriculture technology and the growth of megasites. Raiford indicated most farmers are using technology to make their operations more efficient. While megasites are adjacent to large metros, most are located in rural areas because that’s where the land is available.
As far as strategies for NC TECH, Raiford said the biggest issue in the tech sector as well as any employer right now is the demand for talent. As a result, NC TECH added a new position dedicated to talent and workforce development. Raiford indicated that although NC TECH is not an economic development organization, it is an economic development ally. He said he is often invited to meetings to help with the growth of new and expansion of existing industries.
Critical Conversations is a feature in the Golden LEAF newsletter every month. The next edition will be in our October 13th edition of LEAF Lines.