North Carolina in the Connected Age: Challenges and Opportunities in a Globalizing Economy

North Carolina in the Connected Age: Challenges and Opportunities in a Globalizing Economy

North Carolina in the Connected Age: Challenges and Opportunities in a Globalizing Economy

North Carolina in the Connected Age: Challenges and Opportunities in a Globalizing Economy


At a time when North Carolina's population is exploding and its economy is shifting profoundly, one of the state's leading economists applies the tools of his trade to chronicle these changes and to inform North Carolinians in easy-to-understand terms what to expect in the future.

Today we are living in a technologically connected age that has completely transformed the North Carolina economy, Walden explains. Once driven by tobacco, textiles, and furniture, the North Carolina economy now thrives on technology, pharmaceuticals, finance, food processing, and the manufacture of vehicle parts. While the state as a whole has benefited from these dramatic transformations, some population groups and regions have not experienced consistent economic growth. Walden identifies education as the key factor; a skilled, college-educated work force, he argues, is now a region's most prized commodity.

Walden traces how the forces of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have remade the North Carolina economy, impacted people and regions, and led to the most substantive public policy debates in decades. Written in a lively style and including original research and insights, North Carolina in the Connected Age is essential reading for anyone wanting to understand how the state arrived where it is today and what its future might hold.


North Carolina’s economy has gone through many transformations. Agriculture and an agrarian way of life dominated the state from its inception through most of the nineteenth century. Like most of America’s residents, North Carolinians in the 1700s and 1800s lived on small subsistence farms. Turpentine, tobacco, and corn production were the state’s leading industries, while the manufacturing industry consisted of a handful of textile mills that served only local markets.

Then, using cheap labor released from a mechanizing agricultural industry, the state developed three key manufacturing industries that would form its economic base for the majority of the twentieth century: furniture, textiles, and tobacco. North Carolina had long supplied lumber to northern furniture factories. in the early 1900s, the combination of available low-cost labor, proximity to plentiful forests, a favorable climate, and available rail transportation caused the furniture industry to shift its major base of operations from the North to North Carolina.

Similarly, the young nation’s textile industry was centered in New England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Textile mills were usually fueled by waterpower and so had to be located on streams or rivers. By the twentieth century, however, the growing availability of electricity increased the number of possible mill locations. North Carolina offered easy access to southerngrown cotton and had always had a small textile industry: as with furniture, the lures of inexpensive labor, favorable climate, and natural input (cotton) caused North Carolina to attract industry from the North, and by the 1920s, the state had become the country’s leading textile manufacturer. Apparel factories that turned fabric into finished clothing products quickly followed.

Unlike furniture and textiles, tobacco manufacturing was a homegrown North Carolina industry. Tobacco manufacturing did not exist until the late . . .

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