Thursday, June 9, 2011

POTUS Visits Durham

President Obama will visit Durham Monday. He's touring Cree, a home-grown company with a global market for its LED lighting.

The President will be accompanied by his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. These rock stars of American business will be meeting Monday, too.

There’s a reception Sunday evening at the American Tobacco campus and White House staffers are coming to the 5pm Bulls game.

I’m pleased the visitors will get a taste of downtown Durham. The symbolism is significant: tobacco to tech and edu...3,000 people ("the creative class") now working in what was a million square feet of abandoned cigarette factory. Of course, baseball improved the neighborhood, too.

Donning my Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce hat, I have revisited the notes from our May 19th Economic Development Summit in RTP.

We listened to three panel discussions with start-ups, mature tech firms and big manufacturers. The common thread was our talent pool. Certainly, incentives, taxes and lifestyle are important, but “workforce” is our strong suit.

Two entrepreneurs “livin’ the dream” on the coast (Savannah GA and Beaufort SC) relocated to Durham for access to the Bull City's tech talent.

From my conference notes:
  • We have a wealth of human capital in tech and bio-pharma.
  • The confluence of higher education in the Triangle creates a “crossroads for interdisciplinary talent.”
  • Our community college system has effectively re-skilled the workforce from tobacco/textiles to tech.
And there is something special about Tar Heel character: the work ethic of the workforce was cited as an added benefit to doing business here.

These intangibles do matter. Longtime GSK leader (now of Hatteras Venture Partners) Bob Ingram talked about Durham’s warmth, energy and excitement.

I’m confident the visiting CEOs will make note of this on Monday!