Report shows entrepreneurship creates jobs in N.C.

UNC Entrepreneur-in Residence Buck Goldstein (left) and Chancellor Holden Thorp believe universities can be engines of economic innovation. UNC's minor in entrepreneurship has become a popular program for undergraduate students.

CED, the Southeast’s largest entrepreneurial support organization, has released a 20-year retrospective report showing that the North Carolina entrepreneurial sector creates jobs that stay in the state. The sector attracts large amounts of diversified capital investment and exhibits unusually stable growth patterns, even during major economic swings.

UNC College Arts and Sciences researchers played a major role in the study.

The report provides aggregate data that shows a total of 1,823 high-growth companies founded in North Carolina since 1992 have created an estimated 40,560 jobs. Of these firms, 397 have attracted $7.7 billion in private capital, raised from more than 600 funds, since 1997. The report is the first to provide a comprehensive look at the role these privately held companies contribute to the overall economy.

As part of an ongoing collaboration between Maryann Feldman, Heninger Distinguished Professor in the department of public policy, and Nichola Lowe, associate professor in the department of city and regional planning, UNC researchers compiled the initial database of companies to study entrepreneurship in the Research Triangle. CED and First Flight Venture Center (a technology incubator) contributed additional company names and histories.

“We have gained knowledge through partnering with these institutions,” Lowe said. “Our goal is to make this information widely available for anyone interested in learning more about how companies start and grow, and to encourage discussion on public policy,” she added. UNC will continue to host the combined database with support from the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) and the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science at UNC.

Among the findings:

  • Investors represent an increasingly wide geographic range. While the most active venture capital funds investing in North Carolina companies are located in the Southeast, international funds, as well as those located in Boston, New York and California, have made significant investments in North Carolina firms in the past 15 years.
  • More than 200 separate corporations have acquired North Carolina entrepreneurial companies since 1992, many with the goal of establishing a regional research and development center in the state. These acquisitions often bring additional investment and jobs to North Carolina, especially in the Research Triangle.
  • Entrepreneurs in North Carolina are closely connected to the large technology and life science companies. Many work for a large firm prior to launching a startup, then return following an acquisition or prior to launching a new venture. This arrangement both attracts and retains valuable high-tech talent in the state.