Magazine article Black Enterprise

North Carolina's Recipe for Growth: Regional Profile

Magazine article Black Enterprise

North Carolina's Recipe for Growth: Regional Profile

Article excerpt

Mix a booming banking industr, a biotech presence and an appetite for big-time sports with a legacy of black business, and you have the makings of the next hot mecca for business and career opportunities

TIRED OF TWO-HOUR COMMUTER TRAFFIC JAMS, high-priced housing and the stress of maneuvering in a big metropolitan city like Los Angeles, James H. Johnson Jr. jumped at the chance to relocate. A University of California geography professor, Johnson happily accepted a new post as endowed professor at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It was an opportunity to slow the pace while continuing to thrive professionally. It was also a good move for his budding family. Most of all, after a 14-year professional odyssey, it was a chance to go home.

Johnson, like many African Americans, is finding North Carolina to be a place where you can earn a good living and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. With a booming economy, a relatively low cost-of-living and an unemployment rate below the national average, North Carolina is ripe with career and business opportunities.

Charlotte is the new financial capital of the South and the third largest banking center in the country. The Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area is a magnet for university and corporate research and development in cutting-edge technologies--and a bedrock of black entrepreneurial spirit. Meanwhile, the Greensboro/High Point/Winston-Salem area offers a diverse portfolio of manufacturing, finance and health care services. These areas, along with state-supported arts and culture, meld to make North Carolina a rich low-country stew, simmering with opportunities for those willing to offer their services.


There are two groups of African Americans relocating to North Carolina, notes Johnson, the E. Maynard Adams Professor and senior research fellow at UNC's Carolina Population Studies Center. Young, professionals are coming to the area to take jobs at the Duke University Medical Center, Research Triangle Park [the research and development community in Raleigh/Durham/ Chapel Hill] or at the universities," explains this expert on African American migration patterns. "They are well-educated professionals and are coming to the South for the first time."

Other African Americans making North Carolina their new home range from returning natives to retirees. Some are young professionals returning home who need the institutional support of family and friends to raise their children," Johnson continues. "Others are retirees fed up with life in the inner city. They want to move back where their parents live or lived."

North Carolina, with 1.4 million African Americans, has the seventh largest black population in the United States. The largest number of blacks live in the three-city area called the "Triangle," composed of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. The other major metropolitan center is the "Triad," made up of Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point.

But the center of national attention and notoriety is Charlotte, the state's financial capital. It is home to the $170 billion glass-and-granite tower of NationsBank, the fourth largest bank in the country, and the $78 billion First Union Bank, the ninth largest bank in the U.S. And, there's also Wachovia Bank, a Winston-Salem-based bank with $45 million in assets.

Even with new industries and breakthrough technology, manufacturing is still king in the state, especially in the Triad region. Traditional mainstays of the economy, textiles and tobacco remain North Carolina's No. 1 and No. 2 most valuable products. Following textiles, furniture and apparel manufacturing are the second and third largest employers. However, North Carolina has seen a significant downturn in the number of textile workers as the industry has moved even farther south--below U.S. borders. Chemical and allied product manufacturing round out the state's most valued sources of revenue. …

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