From the President: Five Trends Driving our Economic Future


Economic development is a machine with hundreds of moving parts: every project is unique and every day brings a different array of tasks. But in forging job-creation in the Southeast Region there are moments when a coherent picture of tomorrow’s economic landscape comes into view. Prosperity here boils down to five trends now in evidence across our region.

Global Integration – Two decades ago, communities here competed with similar locations in the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia. Our competitive posture today is far more elevated, and it is global. The Southeast now vies against comparable regions in Europe, Asia and Canada for global investment capital flowing from multinational corporations. Reliable market intelligence and international perspectives are more pivotal than ever to N.C. Southeast’s outreach efforts.

21st Century Agribusiness – The Southeast’s earliest industry remains one of its most important. Aside our fields are also modern food processing facilities that rival any in the world for their technological sophistication. So, too, do computer-driven distribution centers that route food and beverages to national and global buyers. The probable acquisition of Smithfield Foods, one of our largest private employers, by the Chinese conglomerate Shuanghui International will kick this trend into high gear.

Manufacturing Renaissance – The Southeast felt the pain of offshore manufacturing migration in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But the developing world’s cheap labor failed to offset the vast productivity advantage of U.S. workers. That, along with high transportation costs and the quest for speedy market access, has led manufacturers back to our shores. Diligent, manufacturing-savvy labor and ready access to markets in Europe and the Americas put us at an advantage as U.S. manufacturing enters an exciting new era.

Regional Business Leadership – Securing prosperity in the 21st Century economy is an all-hands-on-deck endeavor. The private sector has begun playing a more vigorous and vocal role in setting priorities for regional job-growth, business formation and attraction of economic investment. In May, North Carolina’s Southeast Partnership held its first board meeting. The private non-profit organization unites business leaders from across the Southeast in providing advocacy, expertise and funding for regional development efforts that have long-term impact on their communities and companies.

Human Capital – As technology replaces tasks once performed by human hands, workforce innovation has risen in importance. It’s ironic but true – at all levels of the labor market. That places a premium on current and future workers accessing strong basic education, vocational credentials and lifelong learning opportunities. Last year, the Southeast’s comprehensive workforce assessment identified key strategies for putting employers, workers, educators and economic developers on the same page when it comes to fully unleashing the region’s greatest asset: our people.

These basic themes will drive the Southeast and its economic development agenda for the foreseeable future. We intend to maintain a keen focus on them.


Steve Yost