A former venture capitalist, Ted Morris is used to gambling on ideas with enormous potential that are unproven outside the lab. As director of the NC State Economic Development Partnership (EDP), he is placing much safer betsmatching the University’s proven research abilities with known local and regional resourcesto attract business with enormous potential to North Carolina.
Created in 2003, EDP provides a point of contact for the North Carolina Department of Commerce and local agencies seeking NC State’s assistance in landing industrial recruiting targets. Previously, agencies went through individual colleges or programs for help, but Morris is in position to marshal all University resources into “rapid response teams” to sell corporate executives on the potential for research collaborations if they locate or expand operations in the state. Computer science faculty and logistics experts, for example, helped in discussions with Dell before the computer-maker decided to open an operation in Forsyth County.
But as recruiting becomes more competitive both domestically and globally, a more critical role for EDP is to tap the corporate relationships of NC State researchers and work with economic developers to target industries even before companies are ready to expand. “We no longer operate on a cold call model of going after every lead,” Morris says. “We have to use our regional assets and the University’s strengths to locate niches where we can be most successful and then pursue those industries.”
Medical and biotextilesproducts ranging from wound dressings to surgical sutures to artificial skinis the first target industry. EDP has partnered with Wake County Economic Development on a precision marketing initiative to attract advanced textiles companies to the Raleigh area. They are banking on the expertise of the College of Textiles and its Nonwovens Cooperative Research Center, as well as science and engineering resources throughout NC State, as a drawing card to build an early leadership position in the nascent industry. Morris says the state could then use that as a foundation to draw even more firms and related industries. “We have to demonstrate to companies that choosing not to locate in North Carolina is a competitive disadvantage,” he says.