City of Raleigh Economic Development & Innovation
Raleigh is the capital of the great state of North Carolina, a “big city with a small-town feel,” as some might say. The city is bustling with diverse people and lively businesses, and growth opportunities. Growing up in Cary, my family and I held the tradition of taking night drives to downtown Raleigh for Saturday night dinners. I remember staring out of the backseat car window at the giant office buildings. The city reminds me of time with my family and is where I walked across the stage to graduate high school and stepped into true adulthood.
I rarely get to visit nowadays, but the city remains its iconic self, with increasing innovations and economic growth. According to NCDemography.com, Raleigh is one of the fastest-growing large metros in the country. The median household income is a little over $69,000 and the per capita income is at $38,494, according to the City Profile.
I was able to speak with Nia Blaze, a communications intern with the city of Raleigh Economic Development and Innovation Team about Raleigh’s economic situation before the COVID pandemic, where she described it as “robust and vibrant.” The biggest industries that contribute to Raleigh’s economy include technology, medical fields, hospitality, manufacturing, education, and universities.
“All these industries develop and maintain a healthy economy, and having a mix makes us more resilient. In a recession, you need a mix of businesses, so if one sector is affected the others can carry on the economy,” says Nia.
Even during the pandemic, surprisingly, there has been an increase in activity with bigger North Eastern and Western companies looking to come to Raleigh. Pendo and Bandwidth are two Raleigh grown technology businesses and the latter has seen growth during the pandemic. Also, Amazon and other delivery services have been on the rise, HR jobs, businesses making PPE, IT businesses hardware stores, and architecture.
Unfortunately, Raleigh has seen a lull in the tourism and travel industries, as well as the businesses that go along with those including hotels and other hospitality businesses this year. This, of course, is not the case for other cities across North Carolina, but it seems that people are traveling to less populated cities to escape the craziness.
Income inequality also continues to worsen due to closings, health issues, and business restrictions and impacts children as well who will be harmed by the lack of resources.
So what has the Economic Development and Innovation team done to help build back Raleigh? The team has partnered with Carolina Small Business, a team that helps entrepreneurs create the business of their dreams, to create the Raleigh Small Business Relief Fund to help small businesses repurpose and find innovative ways to stay afloat.
“Businesses were able to afford supplies and furniture needed for curbside pick-up and outdoor dining,” says Nia.
The environment of Raleigh has been positively impacted due to the pandemic, including lowered smog levels and less turbid water bodies, but the overall economic hardships may slow down the progress in building sustainable technologies.
The City of Raleigh Office of Sustainability believes, “It is likely that both the positive and negative effects of this global pandemic will be something we continue to learn about for a long time to come.”
Raleigh’s economy is not the only one that has been impacted by this pandemic, but what sets it apart according to Nia is “Our ability to work together with the chambers of commerce, alliance partners, and community, which allows us to get solutions more quickly than other cities.” She believes energy, innovation, collaboration, and community are at the heart of the city.
We are not perfect but, “out of all the imperfect places, this is my favorite imperfect place,” says Nia.