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

Impact of physical space on networking

In this excerpt, Smith discusses the role of networking in North Carolina business. Networks in North Carolina rely on hubs like UNC-Chapel Hill and Research Triangle Park.

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: Sketch, if you would, the ways in which--. Obviously, you’re one of North Carolina’s key corporate citizens and leaders. You participate widely in and contribute your skills and expertise to a whole range of leadership venues: RTP, the Citizens for Business and Industry, [and] other contexts as well. Can you talk a little bit about the networks that exist to bring corporate leaders in North Carolina into contact with one another? [What is] the nature of the exchange that occurs in those contacts over time? SS: Yes. I think this might be true in many industries. In our industry there are just a few electric and gas and telephone utilities, so naturally, we would be in contact. We would know each other, and it would be very easy to have what you might call a “personal relationship” or a “network” with those individuals. With the banks -- we’re fortunate in North Carolina that we have seven or eight very large regional banks -- the network is--. Well, we have the North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, which is the formal structure. Just engaged in your everyday business activities, you may be borrowing money from a bank or you may be depositing it there. There’s contact there. So in the state, it’s fairly easy for leaders to become known to one another. I think there’s been a history. Some would say that the University of North Carolina is a great catalyst that’s tended to produce that. I remember reading a study, that had been done in the WPA [Work Project Administration] years in the late ‘30s, that said the University of North Carolina has provided the catalyst where people from all over the state can come to one location for their education. Many of those would be your future leaders of tomorrow. I would say that that is certainly true, although now the university system has grown and expanded. There would be networks that develop from North Carolina State and other parts of the university system. But probably going through the ‘50s and into the ‘60s, the University of North Carolina was a great place for the socialization of people from around the state. That led to networks later on. In mentioning the University, I think in terms of economic growth and development as well as education, that it would be impossible to give too much credit to the leadership that we had there in terms of Bill Friday. I’m sure you’ve known Bill Friday or interviewed him and talked to him. I think the continuity that we’ve had there and his skills in presiding over now a wide range of very different institutions--. He’s been involved with many things that the governors have decided to do. [For example, he was involved in creating] Research Triangle Park, [and] different things in the Park. That’s been a great benefit for the state, as part of the network. In networking around the state, in Raleigh--. People come to Raleigh because it’s the state capital. The legislators come to Raleigh and the people that want to see legislators come to Raleigh and people that have business with the treasurer’s office [come to Raleigh]. By virtue of being in Raleigh, you’re sort of in the hub. Probably more than I realize, my location in Raleigh put me in contact with a large number of people from around the state. I think geographic location was one of the things that was helpful. The fact that I lived in Charlotte for a while, had gone to the University, was engaged in private practice of law, each of those [things] in some way enabled me to become acquainted with people who later on I might have reason to work together on an economic development project or legal project or utility related project.