Finding a World of Business Opportunity in North Carolina

This special report for SKEMA Business School was prepared by Holly Larson. Follow her on Twitter @HollyKLarson and connect with her on LinkedIn.

SKEMA Business School’s Raleigh, NC campus. Photo credit. © Tom Fuldner. L’Etudiant website.

Amble down Main Campus Drive in Raleigh, North Carolina, and you’ll not only traverse the sprawling campus of North Carolina State University, but also step into another world. In a pair of brick and glass buildings, you’ll find SKEMA Business School, which has campuses on four (soon to be five) continents and a finance program that is ranked 6th in the world by The Financial Times. While students hail from around the world, French is the favored tongue of most, not surprising given SKEMA’s start in France.

SKEMA students at the Raleigh campus. Photo from SKEMA website.

As befits its international focus, SKEMA hosted a cross-cultural panel discussion, “Growing Global Investment and Expansion in North Carolina,” on Thursday, April 6th with participation from international corporate leaders and North Carolina organizational leaders who promote and bring business to the state. The French, German, and Japanese Chambers of Commerce for the Carolinas all served as sponsors for the meeting, and St. Jacques French Cuisine provided a light repast and drinks. Marie-Claire Ribell, Honorary Consul of France and North America Development and External Relations Officer for SKEMA, offered introductions.

At the Top of the Charts for Business

North Carolina has consistently won plaudits from industry media for its business-friendly environment, although the HB2 “bathroom bill” has caused significant fallout over the past year. According to the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina website, the state ranked:

North Carolina: Southern Flavor, International Allure

So why is the state so successful? North Carolina’s proximity to major markets, diverse economy, intellectual property, and highly educated and skilled talent base are extremely alluring to overseas companies, said panel moderator Michael Haley, Director of Business Recruitment and Expansion at Wake County Economic Development. Meanwhile, international employees appreciate the family-friendly environment, great educational system, and affordable real estate. According to Haley, the state is home to 175,000 foreign-born residents, and 625 internationally owned companies are located here. Honorary consuls help communicate the value and amenities of the area to incoming expats, said Christopher Chung, CEO, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. David S. Robinson, an International Trade and Investment and International Corporate Compliance Attorney at Nexsen Pruet holds that role for Japan, while Marie-Claire Ribell, serves in that capacity for France.

Why International Companies Invest in North Carolina

Both bioMérieux, a worldwide leader in in-vitro diagnostics headquartered in France, and MANN+Hummel, a German manufacturer of air filter systems, entered the North Carolina market with acquisitions. Charles Valliant, Group Vice President, Technology, MANN+Hummel says that his company selected Raleigh because it was a leader in research. The German manufacturer has set up an innovation center on the NC State campus and values its access to talent in the Raleigh and Charlotte markets and cooperation with its research partners. “I can do research here I can’t do anywhere else in the U.S. I can produce material and commercialize it here,” states Valliant. He says that the U.S. spirit of experimentation is invaluable to his business. “What comes out of the US is better and faster” than the rest of the world, he says.

Why Companies Stay and Thrive in North Carolina

Stefan Willemsen, President and CEO, bioMérieux, Inc., says the company has grown exponentially because of the “good talent marriage of engineering and biology” that is present in the area and its access to “open markets and continuous innovation.” bioMérieux has bought most of its successful technology platforms in the US, says Willemsen. The company recently announced a new $48.2 million-dollar investment to expand its facility in Durham, North Carolina.

Robinson said that early on, Japanese companies were driven to invest in North Carolina because of strategic relationships. Now companies are selecting the market because of its pro-business environment, low energy costs, and road infrastructure for trucking and other logistics.

An audience member asked how HB1 visa caps are impacting the state. Robinson expressed concern that caps are limiting innovation here. Chung said that a corporate leader he spoke to recently is shifting to an HR strategy in response: building, rather than relocating, the skilled workforce it needs in the state.

According to Chung, companies and citizens alike in the Raleigh area have benefited from the prescient development of Research Triangle Park (RTP) in 1959 by government, university, and corporate partners. RTP is home to more than 200 research and technology companies, including IBM, Cisco, and GlaxoSmithKline, and 46,000 highly skilled workers who collaborate and innovate across 22.5 million square feet of built space.

The RTP campus is vast in scope and eight miles long. Photo credit: Durham, NC website.

North Carolina is growing at twice the national average, says Chung. The state has added two million new residents from the rest of the U.S. and globe, which is creating a stronger economy and workforce. “People move here for school, a career change, a vacation, and try to stay. This is an area that is easy to recruit to,” he said.

“We are all ambassadors who support the global community that is thriving here,” said Robinson. He urged audience members to promote the state and its development opportunities to everyone in their network.

About the Author
Holly Larson is a B2B content marketing writer with a passion for writing about digital transformation, industry change, and technology for such companies as Axiom Law, Microsoft, Rackspace, and CenturyLink. She is a North Carolina fan, based in Durham, NC, a thriving mecca for startup founders, technologists, and anyone seeking great job opportunities and a fantastic quality of life. Connect with Holly on LinkedIn or view her B2B portfolio on Shocase.