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As tech startups surge in cities, inclusive economic growth must be a priority

By Brooks Rainwater for TechCrunch

Great places don't rise from a blank slate - they use unique assets to build up what's special about the community, rather than seeking to recreate success from elsewhere.  

This is a recurring story; cities that succeed - from Boston and Seattle, to Raleigh and Austin - are those that lead with a homegrown focus. In my travels exploring cities and analyzing policy innovation in the U.S. and around the world, I try to observe what makes cities tick.

Thankfully, city leaders across the country understand these challenges are real and they are utilizing the tools available to them to make a difference. One example of this can be seen in Raleigh, which has progressed on an uphill trajectory in recent years. Raleigh's key differentiator is its history and focus on data analytics.

One of the critical pieces came about with the creation of the nation's first Master of Science in Analytics degree at North Carolina State (NCSU). This alone was not enough to catalyze growth though, the business community played a critical role from the beginning. A key partner was SAS, a large private business analytics company that employs 5,000 locally, which was incubated at NCSU and founded in 1976.

The effects of long-term growth in Raleigh can be seen with a large number of global companies having a presence in the region. Even government agencies, including the National Security Agency (NSA), are locating here. In fact, IBM Watson - the famous supercomputer that combines artificial intelligence and sophisticated analytical software - plays a role in the region. Besides winning Jeopardy, UNC's medical school is using Watson to cull through massive amounts of genetic data to help treat cancer.

The clusters that have grown in the region pay dividends in many ways, but with success comes rising housing costs, displacement, and other challenges facing so many of the nation's cities. Raleigh and the RTP region is on the path forward approaching this in a concerted way, with education, transportation investments, and more - seeking to alleviate these challenges with a more pronounced focus on inclusive policies in the city. Mayor McFarlane recently expressed in her State of the City speech that they have developed a plan to partner with local non-profits to build more affordable housing so that residents of the community have more housing options.

Read the full article in TechCrunch here


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