WCED Blog


Advanced Manufacturing represents a Key Cluster in Wake County & the Triangle

By: John Johnston

There’s a long history of manufacturers and advancing manufacturing in Wake County. Home to more than 200 companies, Wake County and the Research Triangle region play a critical role in the future of North Carolina’s advanced manufacturing economy. In Wake County alone, there are more than 26,000 workers in advanced manufacturing jobs with average earnings of $120,048 – wages that are nearly 31 percent higher than the national average. When you look more broadly at the Research Triangle region, there are nearly 70,000 jobs!

Nationally, advanced manufacturing and related jobs are woven into almost every sector of the U.S. economy and were a significant contributor to America’s economic health throughout the 20th century. In 2018, the Trump administration unveiled the “Strategy for American Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing,” a report by the Subcommittee on Advanced Manufacturing and the National Science and Technology Council. The strategic plan calls for continued investment and development in manufacturing technologies, workforce training, and expansion of the supply chain capabilities.

Understanding that Wake County Economic Development has a responsibility to our community’s economic vitality and business attraction, we convened an Advanced Manufacturing Strategy Task Force in late 2018 to dive deep into this cluster’s presence in Wake County. Chaired by Robert Mason of Capital Bank, the Advanced Manufacturing Strategy Task Force started this process with three goals in mind:

  1. Determine a collective definition of advanced manufacturing in Wake County and the Research Triangle Region
  2. Understand the best direction for Wake County Economic Development to be an asset to this industry cluster by serving as a storyteller, advocate, and convener of thought leaders
  3. Lead and produce marketing collateral and develop a messaging strategy to share with site selectors and companies looking to relocate or expand in Wake County

In addition to these goals, we will work to better understand the workforce and skills needs of our existing employers. We also will bring education and business partners to the table to consider new opportunities to meet the business needs of this sector while working towards a broader marketing effort to attract new and expanding companies.

We know that our area is one of the most competitive markets in the country for these opportunities. Our strategic location on the eastern seaboard and excellent transportation network, flanked by three major interstate highways, a world-class international airport, and a short drive to multiple U.S. ports, along with our access to more than 1.1 million workers in the Research Triangle region, makes us one of the top destinations in the country for advanced manufacturing. Pair that with the lowest corporate tax rate in the U.S. and our low cost of doing business, it is easy to see why this piece of our economy has been so successful and will remain competitive long into the future.

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