Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sherwood Smith, March 23, 1999. Interview I-0079. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Growth factors in North Carolina

Smith explains North Carolina's remarkable economic growth in the past few decades. He cites a number of contributing factors, such as the absence of unions, a dedication to education, and a close relationship between government and business.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sherwood Smith, March 23, 1999. Interview I-0079. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JM: Let me take you to another sort of range of questions. Think back, if you would, to what the business landscape in North Carolina looked like mid-'60s, early '70s. The growth is just about really to take off. It’s already starting. North Carolina’s done especially well, if you look in comparison to the region and to the nation generally. [North Carolina has] very rapid growth rates. [There are] high rates of industrial growth and economic development in North Carolina. Why North Carolina? What has made North Carolina such a successful spot for business development and economic growth over the last twenty, twenty-five, thirty years? SS: I think there are a number of factors. Obviously, [those include North Carolina’s] moderate to reasonable climate, moderate wage climate, the cost of doing business here. I think [North Carolina’s] progressive state government [is a factor]. State government was really strong in building up the community college system, continuing to strengthen our university system, focus[ing] on public schools. [Being] committed to finding more jobs and better jobs for the people was very important. Then, you had a few catalysts. You had certainly, in this area, the Research Triangle Park. That’s, I think, sort of the jewel for the entire state. Piedmont North Carolina [is] basically located on the transportation corridor between the Washington, DC area and Atlanta -- I-85. That was the area where you had a lot of textile and furniture workers who, as we moved away from those products because they could be produced in many cases more cheaply overseas, you had a workforce there that could be retrained in our community and technical college system. The right to work law -- sort of a climate that was free of labor strife -- was important. Then, I think you had cooperation between government and the larger businesses in the state. I’ll pick the banks and the utility companies [as examples]. There are others that could be put in there. In my experience in working with economic development, I probably spent more time working together with the banks and the utility companies than others. There is a good partnership between education on the one hand and business and government [on the other] that I haven’t seen duplicated, replicated elsewhere. It may exist in other parts of the country. I know it did exist here. I know it was tremendously important to the successful development of the state.