Durham’s robust economy promises to continue

Jun. 26, 2014 @ 07:09 PM

If you have, as I do, a sense that Durham’s economic buoyancy over the past several years is about to kick into an even higher gear, a study released last week provided a significant confirmation.

The study, for the U. S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Dallas, projected “metropolitan gross product” growth for every metro area in the country over the next seven years.

The outlook for the Triangle could hardly be brighter.

Among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas, Durham-Chapel Hill’s economic activity growth will be the fifth highest. And the metro areas ahead of us include neighboring Raleigh-Cary, projected to have the second-highest growth.

While downtown’s almost breathtaking renaissance is a driver of that growth, there are signs all around the city of that growth. Research Triangle Park’s efforts to reinvent its model are beginning already to pay dividends.  The Southpoint area continues to sprout new development. Treyburn business park in North Durham promises to continue to be a major economic engine that sometimes escapes notice.

I’ve written about this before, but all of this activity — and attention – would appear to be boosting Durham’s spirits as well as its economy.  This city long felt – sometimes with good reason, sometimes with Eeyore-like woe – as if it were looked down upon by neighbors and the nation. Now, it has absorbed so many accolades and so much recognition that the mood is decidedly more confident and even cocky.

Just this past week, the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau emailed that North Carolina landed six venues on ConventionSouth’s list of “Elite 50 Conference Centers” in the region. Three – half of the state’s list – are in Durham County: Hamner Conference Center in RTP, Rizzo Conference Center (a Chapel Hill address but Durham footprint) and the Washington Duke Inn and Golf Club.

At the same time, the DCVB, which has done much to reassure the community that great things really are happening here constantly, noted some other recent recognition. Among them:

-- “Durham has been recognized by Nerd Wallet as the fourth best medium-sized city in the United States for women in the workforce…http://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/cities/economics/best-cities-women-workforce-2/

-- “The U.S. departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security gave grants totaling more than $500,000 to North Carolina Central University to battle foodborne illness outbreaks, weather events and other threats.

-- “Duke University football coach David Cutcliffe and men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski have been named the number three duo of the ‘The Top 10 College Football-Men’s Basketball Coaching Duos’ by College Spun.”

-- “Duke Chapel has been listed among the top spiritual places in the United States by the Huffington Post …”

Granted, in this day of proliferating, narrow-casting websites and blogs, it’s almost as easy to round up a shout-out here and there as it is for a writer to get a friend to blurb his or her new novel.

But the overall vibe is pulsating in the Bull City right now. Heck, even The News and Observer in Raleigh has discovered our incredible food scene with an article Friday (and a map which, I must acknowledge, was really cool) extolling the array of restaurants in and around a downtown that just a few years ago was seen as a risky site for the first pioneering chefs to locate there.

We still, as must always be acknowledged, face some serious challenges – too much poverty, too many school dropouts, too many working poor, too many unhealthy people. But solving those problems in with a robust economy is far easier than in a depressed one.

Bob Ashley is editor of The Herald-Sun. You can reach him at 919-419-6678 or bashley@heraldsun.com.