North Carolina through the long lens

Date posted: August 16, 2012

We’ll hear much about the North Carolina economy in the state elections this year. When you stand back and look at some trends and shifts in the state over several decades, what do you see? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.

“Well, certainly, number one is the transformation of our economy here in North Carolina, which really happened over the last 40 years, from an economy that was based on the big three — tobacco, textiles, and furniture — to a new economy  based on technology, machinery, manufacturing and food processing and health care. So, the real core foundation of what North Carolina does in the economy has changed. Now this has had big implications for where we work, how we earn our money and what kind of training our workers need.

“I think a second big force in North Carolina — and really in the world — has been we have a much more competitive economy now. We’ve had major trade agreements that reduce trade barriers. We’ve had information technology that’s effectively shrunk the world. And so North Carolina companies as well as North Carolina workers are in keen competition with workers and companies not only in the U.S. but around the world.

“And then thirdly because North Carolina has really adapted not perfectly but reasonably well to these forces, we are still a state that people want to move to. For example, in the last couple of years, we’ve had the fourth highest in migration rate. That means people moving from other states here to North Carolina. That has implications for all sorts of things — infrastructure, schools,  requirements for roads, and sewers, et cetera.

“So, big, big changes that we’ve seen here in North Carolina.”

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