The first seeds of the information technology industry
in North Carolina were planted in the 1950s.
At that time, North Carolina’s economy was largely concentrated
in the tobacco, textiles, and
machinery industries. The state’s best asset for remaining
competitive was its core of universities;
however, graduates were pursuing jobs outside the state in a classic case
of “brain drain.”
A committee of state business leaders and prominent university
officials, assembled by
Governor Luther Hodges in 1995, recommended that North Carolina State
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), and Duke University
be used to attract research
firms to the region. In 1959, funds were secured to purchase
6,700 acres for the development of
Research Triangle Park (RTP), an area that would be devoted to nurturing
technology firms in the region. The first tenant of RTP was
RTI International, a non-profit
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences locates in RTP through
Terry Sanford’s connection with the Kennedy Administration.
In 1965, IBM announced their
intention to build in RTP, which launched a period of sustained growth.
Also in the 1960s,
the state legislature took several steps to expand the community college
system and the
As personal computers began to emerge in the mid-70s, RTP had several
firms to meet market demand. NCSU established a computer sciences
h increased the number of trained engineers and developers in the region.
statistical software company SAS started in the 1970s, and is still headquartered
Planning for Centennial Campus commenced in 1985, with
the goal to further
develop the technology industry and linkages with universities in North
companies were ultimately incubated there, including Red Hat Software
and Cree Technologies.
NCSU establishes the Center for Advanced Computing and Communication.
Other major companies set up operations in North Carolina,
including Cisco. Although
North Carolina seemed well positioned for the internet boom of the 1990s,
government leaders did not foresee the oncoming start-up craze. As
a result, North Carolina
missed much of the boom.
North Carolina continues to lag behind other major technological
hubs, such as Silicon
Valley, in terms of the concentration of the IT industry.
However, Triangle Area still maintains a
healthy share of the industry and attracts highly skilled technology workers
from around the
world. In January, 2007, Google, Inc. announced plans to build
a $600 million data center
for its online services in Lenoir, North Carolina.
The furniture industry has a long history in the
United States. As firms relocated to North
Carolina over time, the state became the nation’s top furniture
producer. The North Carolina
furniture industry was originally a craft industry.