In a market where networking opportunities are abundant, it is exciting to find new pockets where individual and corporate connectivity amongst a particular sector could use a shot in the arm. On Thursday April 21, Wake County Economic Development and North Carolina State University provided just that when we co-hosted our first (of many to come) networking reception for Defense Technologies.
With all of the activity and growth taking place around Ft. Bragg, Defense Technologies have been a marketing focus for some time. Similar to other marketing focuses, it takes a combination of Wake County’s inherit assets and depth and strength of existing companies to portray considerable strength in a cluster. In my opinion, Wake County’s Defense Technologies Cluster finally reached this point last week. Up until then, we’ve always known there was great potential in our defense cluster yet total industry penetration was never realized until we connected with NC State on the matter.
Dr. Michael Steer, Lampe Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University, reached out to our office a little over a month ago and indicated that there was a need amongst his defense contacts for networking opportunities and that we should put something together. Having not received robust connectivity despite best efforts, I was a tiny bit skeptical but was excited about the new opportunity. As soon as the invitation was sent, the responses started flowing. In less than two weeks, we had over 120 confirmed RSVPs and new company contacts were arriving almost daily.
Along the way, I learned something a bit more about Dr. Steer. Not only is he a faculty member at NC State with great defense company contacts, but he is also highly regarded by the U.S. Army. Just last year, Dr. Steer was awarded the U.S. Army Commander’s Award for Public Service for research that has helped American forces remotely counter roadside bombs, efforts that have saved hundreds of soldiers' lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was honored by the Army not only for his research, but also for his efforts communicating the work to Army scientists and engineers and pushing the research results from the laboratory into the battlefield. The Commander’s Award for Public Service is the fourth highest honor the United States Department of the Army can bestow upon a civilian, given to recognize civilian service or achievements that contribute significantly to the accomplishment of the mission of an Army activity, command or staff agency.
In a recent article published by the Urban Land Institute titled, “Building on Innovation,” the author describes the importance of “anchor institutions” and their linkage to “local networks of intellectual and business infrastructure.” The author continues, “Investors and entrepreneurs want to see a community and its leadership moving to the future before allocating their time and capital. A city hoping to have a thriving and sustainable economy needs to be a place that demonstrates a track record of effective partnerships for this type of ongoing innovation to occur.” This is precisely demonstrated in Wake County Economic Development’s renewed efforts with NC State University, focusing on our community’s research and breadth of businesses involved in the Defense Technology cluster.