North Carolina Economic Development Guide

2013

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���We���re predicting 46% of the skilled workforce and 51% of the engineering workforce will need to be replaced.��� 46 At Duke headquarters in downtown Charlotte, Brett Carter understands. ���We have a group run by our chief technology offcer that keeps its fnger on what���s happening in the marketplace,��� says the president of the corporation���s utility operations in North Carolina. ���As we retire signifcant numbers of older units, we see growth in things like solar energy and wind technology. We���ve invested more than $1 billion in wind technology around the country, and we���re exploring things like fuel cells and the Bloom Box.��� That���s an emerging fuel-cell technology that cleanly and effciently generates electricity where the power will be used. ���We���ll have to have expertise in those areas, so we have a very long planning cycle.��� EPIC and Duke are at the core of what economists say is one of the nation���s fastest-growing energy clusters. After its recent merger with Raleigh-based Progress Energy Inc., Duke is the nation���s largest utility and the world���s second-largest electricity and gas utility. It employs about 14,000 in the state, some 6,000 of them in the Charlotte region at plants such as McGuire Nuclear Station, just upstream from Riverbend at the southern end of Lake Norman. The rise of the sector is spawning a boom in its supporting cast of thousands: vendors, contractors, lawyers, accountants and investors. ���Most of the household names we know in North Carolina now have sustainable, clean-energy practices,��� says Ivan Urlaub, executive director of the Raleigh-based, nonproft North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association. Many of its 700-plus members are among the 265 energy-related companies that employ more than 30,000 in the region, according to the Charlotte Regional Partnership. They range from major players such as Duke and Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas Co., which supplies more than 1 million customers in the Carolinas and Tennessee, to small startups. EPIC will train many of the workers who will expand the cluster. Like Riverbend, the workers who maintain North Carolina Economic Development Guide old technology are aging out, and companies that didn���t exist when they were in college are luring their successors away from the energy industry. ���Companies like Google and Apple are ramping up hiring,��� Enslin says. Both have major electricity-hungry data centers in North Carolina that are fed by Duke. ���Many universities are devoting more of their engineering resources and spending on the information-technology side ��� communications, wireless, Internet and so on. Suddenly, we have large power companies fnding there are no power engineers. They try to hire them and wind up having to beg, borrow and steal them because the average age of the labor pool is going up so fast.��� The stakes are high. ���We���re predicting 46% of the skilled workforce and 51% of the engineering workforce will need to be replaced due to retirement or attrition across the industry. If that���s not enough to scare you, I don���t know what is.��� Enslin and Urlaub say that explains why EPIC was born and why, possibly more than any other academic center in the state���s 17-university system, it supports the industry that supports it. With its airy design, four-story atrium and light-colored labs and classrooms, it���s hard to tell that EPIC���s foundation is built atop worry. As the 2000s dawned, Charlotte-based Bank of America Corp. and Wachovia Corp. seemed solid, but cracks were showing. Business leaders fretted about the strength of these pillars of the region���s economy. Jeff Edge, senior vice president of economic development for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, was among them. ���If you go back, say pre-���80s, we were known for textiles and, to a lesser degree, furniture. Then, in the ���80s and ���90s and the early part of this century, our reputation was for banking and fnance, but that dominance meant we had a lot of eggs in a fairly small basket.��� The recession that began in 2007 would eventually claim Wachovia, swallowed by San Francisco-based Wells Fargo

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