Quick Chat: 5 Minutes with Adrienne Cole

Adrienne Cole, Executive Director of Wake County Economic Development

Adrienne Cole, Executive Director of Wake County Economic Development

Adrienne Cole, Executive Director of Wake County Economic Development, recently took the time to fill us in on what’s happening in the Wake County and the surrounding area, and why this area is ideal for hosting Data4Decisions. 

Q: Wake County and Raleigh/Durham are projected for strong economic growth in the coming years. What are some of the factors positioning the region for success? 

A: First off, the Wake County and Raleigh/Durham region is known for its information technology cluster—it’s very strong in tech, software and hardware—and we have a lot of strength in data and analytics in particular. The growth of those markets, which are our core strengths, is not the only reason positioning the region for success, it’s really much broader. It’s a combination of things—none of which work in a silo or apart from each other. They’re all connected.

  1. Education and training. The area is home to three major research institutions—Duke, North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill—along with many other colleges and universities, 12 in Wake County alone. This creates a very rich environment for learning and ideas.
  2. Research Triangle Park. It’s one of the largest and most prominent high-tech research and development centers in the world. With 190+ companies and more than 50,000 employees and 10,000 contractors, it’s the ideal setting for innovation and entrepreneurship.
  3. Affordability. We have a very moderate cost of doing business, along with a reasonable cost of living—far lower than the other tech hubs in the U.S. It’s a very attractive combination, both for companies and for their workers, and it’s an environment where businesses can grow and be successful.
  4. Healthy economy and lifestyle. Many companies have been relocating here to take advantage of our skilled workforce, and our urban centers are vibrant and growing. It’s where a booming business climate meets a great lifestyle, which is an excellent draw for workforce recruitment.

Q: Over the next 5 or so years, where do you foresee the largest growth within the region? 

A: We’ll continue to see growth in our core strengths like IT, and in data and data analytics—there are huge opportunities here for companies that deal with Big Data. Life sciences and green technologies are also on the rise. Plus, our city centers are continuing to grow and thrive, with more and more amenities, more density, and more walkable areas—it’s very attractive to millennials. More companies are moving their headquarters here, and entrepreneurship is thriving—innovators know that they can nurture a new company and grow it here.

Q: ThriveNC recently reported that North Carolina workers are 36% more productive than the average U.S. worker. What factors would you attribute to this increased productivity?

A: As a Raleigh native and current resident, I’ve seen that characteristic on display regularly, and it’s true. We have a culture of working hard and of being passionate about our work. We also have a community of highly educated people—more than 50% of Raleigh’s residents have BA or higher. And, there’s an excellent work/life balance that’s very flexible. People might go into work on a Saturday because they need to go to their kid’s game on Monday. People work hard and then maybe hit the Greenway Trail at lunch to go for a run or a bike ride. You don’t find that as easily in other places. The net result of all this is a lot of people doing what they really love, and consequently, working really hard at it.

I’d also add that this area has a long history of collaboration, innovation and idea sharing, so when you’re in this type of environment, it’s invigorating and exciting. Everyone is passionate about helping, and you can feel that.

Q: Is there anything about Wake County and the surrounding area that might come as a surprise to some people?

A: We rank very high in direct foreign investment, which is helping to drive our steady growth. We’re also a very diverse community—many people don’t realize that. People sometimes have different assumptions about us that don’t hold true once they visit. It’s not a sleepy southern town like some expect, but if you don’t know the area, then you might not realize that. So I encourage you to come visit and see for yourself!

Click here for more information about the Data4Decisions Conference and Expo.