Q. What is the most exciting bit of development news that happened this year?
A. We have had many exciting developments in 2006 and early 2007, from the recent announcement that Honda Aircraft is going to manufacture its new lightweight HondaJet business aircraft in the Piedmont Triad region to the announcements that Fidelity Investments is going to create 2,000 financial services jobs in the Research Triangle Park region and Novartis is going to invest $250 million to build and operate a new flu vaccine manufacturing facility.
Q. What industries have grown in the past year, or what industries are you targeting for more growth?
A. We saw growth in many areas in 2006 and the beginning of 2007, including biotechnology - biomanufacturing and biopharmaceuticals, in particular - financial services - North Carolina ranks second in the U.S. behind New York as a leading provider of financial services - plastics, aerospace and defense, automotive, boat manufacturing, non-woven textiles, and forestry products. Boat manufacturing and other marine-related industries play a major economic role in North Carolina, so the N.C. Department of Commerce and Small Business and Technology Development Center are actively recruiting these industries. This has resulted in more than 100 boat makers employing more than 25,000. The aerospace industry also is growing throughout the state, with well-known companies such as Honda Aircraft, headquartered in Greensboro, and Smiths Aerospace, the largest European-based aerospace equipment company, manufacturing turbine engines in the western part of the state. Our focus continues to be on education and training to ensure that our workforce has the skills needed by companies in the 21st century to be globally competitive. North Carolina home to some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the U.S., and our 58-campus state community college system allows us to provide customized training for workers almost anywhere in the state.
Q. Has any legislation happened during this legislative session that will encourage the growth of industry or new business?
A. The new Article 3J Tax Credits for Growing Businesses replaced the William S. Lee Act on January 1st. The new law streamlined the regulations and expanded the types of businesses that are eligible for tax credits for job creation and certain types of investments.
Q. How about exports? What is North Carolina doing to improve this sector?
A. The North Carolina Department of Commerce has an International Trade Division that is charged with helping North Carolina companies become export ready and then market their products overseas. The division has offices in Mexico, Japan, Germany, Canada, Hong Kong, and South Korea to help North Carolina companies establish connections in foreign countries. Foreign exports from the state totaled more than $21 billion in 2006. That was a 9 percent increase from the year before and placed the state 16th in total exports in the United States for the year. North Carolina's largest export partner in 2006 was Canada followed by Mexico, Japan, and China. Exports to Japan grew by 19 percent and exports to China grew by 72 percent from the previous year. The state's largest export item is machinery.
Q. What other economic sectors show promise?
A. With miles of white sandy beaches and magnificent mountain views, leisure tourism is a major economic force. In 2005, domestic travelers spent $14.2 billion across the state, a 7 percent increase over 2004, and domestic tourism expenditures directly supported 185,200 jobs for North Carolina residents.