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How are we doing? – State’s economy needs focus

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[Editor’s note: The N.C. Progress Board, a group created by state lawmakers to track trends in North Carolina and set goals for the state, issued its first report in December 2001.

[Each week, the Philanthropy Journal spotlights an issue examined in the report. The goals, targets and analysis below are those of the Progress Board.]

North Carolina’s growing, diversified economy is competitive in the global marketplace.

High-quality jobs are plentiful across all economic, geographic and demographic sectors, without undue reliance on too few industries.

“Knowledge workers” dominate the workforce and citizens take advantage of modern communications and technology to create new economic opportunities.

Sound, strategic investments in people and infrastructure have accelerated our transition from traditional to knowledge-based economies.

With our willingness to think boldly — and our faith in ourselves — we have built a new economy laboratory on the foundation of our traditional economic strengths.

Long dominated by the “big three” industries — textiles, furniture and tobacco — North Carolina’s economy is undergoing dramatic diversification.

Traditional industries remain important, but other sectors are growing at a much faster rate. 

In terms of jobs, the service sector already is the largest economic sector, accounting for one-fourth of all non-farm employment.

As the shift to the new economy continues, our performance increasingly will depend on the quality of education, training and infrastructure.

The state has made significant contributions in economic development over the years by establishing special funds, enacting business-friendly legislation and creating incentives for development in underdeveloped areas.

But the future will require even more.

The real question is how to target our investments.

Key options include our workforce, roads, airports, and research centers and public universities.

Right now, we lack the information required to decide.

To make strategic investments, North Carolina must have a platform for monitoring new-economy trends and determining where our public investments are likely to have the greatest impact.

With this information, we can make sure our state is globally competitive — and that no one gets left behind.

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