Globalization called opportunity, challenge

Apr. 21, 2014 @ 06:58 PM

Globalization is a big economic challenge as well as an opportunity for North Carolina, a N.C. Department of Commerce official said Monday.

“Companies are no longer judged by an (ability) to sell neighbors and friends in surrounding states...” said Derek Chen, business development manager who works to promote the state’s defense, motorsports and automotive equipment industries for the N.C. Department of Commerce. Instead, he said, they're judged by an ability to sell internationally.

Chen spoke Monday at the launch of updates to a Duke University Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness website. The site uses data, charts and tables to map the trajectory of seven industries in North Carolina such as textiles, hog farming, information technology and biotechnology, which the website describes as a “new economy” industry.

Citing the report “2012 Evidence and Opportunity: Impacts of the Biosciences in North Carolina” the website said the state saw the highest job growth rate in the biotechnology sector between 2001 and 2010 of any state in the country, with a rate of 23.5 percent. The report was prepared for the N.C. Biotechnology Center by the Battelle Technology Practice.

The site raised concerns about outsourcing in industries like biotechnology.

While the site said global outsourcing has been concentrated at contract research organizations in the United States and Western Europe between 2000 and 2011, it also said that outsourcing to Asia has been growing. That’s according to a survey completed in 2011 through partnership with Booz & Co. and BayBio, a life science association for Northern California.

Gary Gereffi, a sociology professor and the director of the Duke Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness, said he believes parts of the biotechnology sector are strong in the state, such as those that that have ties to nanotechnology, and he promoted building links between the two sectors.

Among his other comments, Chen outlined economic development challenges for North Carolina such as for rural areas. Regarding commercialization of start-up businesses, he said the state had a “great fund” that allowed companies that won federal Small Business Innovation Research Program or Small Business Technology Transfer Program grants to get additional money from the state. He said that didn't take a lot from the state coffers.

“We did away with that, and I think that's a huge area that we need to get back into,” he said.

Chen also said that North Carolina needs to improve its image. He said there have been some “real repercussions” to events in the past year, he said, referencing the Moral Monday protests in particular.

“As a state, (we) need to work on branding ourselves,” he said.

Doug Aitken, program director for corporate services at Durham Technical Community College, spoke about workforce issues facing local companies. He does customized training on-site for businesses, and said one of the biggest issues facing companies in the area now is turnover.