From its earliest days in the late 1800s, when industrial and agricultural interests lobbied for a university to be created to bolster the North Carolina economy, NC State has made economic development as much a part of its mission as education and research. Today, that triple mission is probably more vital than at any time since those early days.

While the Industrial Revolution left an impression on the 19th-century economy, giving rise to furniture and textile plants amid North Carolina’s agrarian economy, the current technology revolution is thoroughly reshaping the state economy for the 21st century. Much labor-intensive factory work in furniture and textiles has moved overseas. Jobs that have remained on-shore often require science or technical skills, and many are in industries—from networking to biopharmaceuticals to nanotechnology—that didn’t even exist a generation ago or are just now beginning to form. “We can’t replace the traditional jobs we’re losing, so we need to do more training and research to attract jobs in non-traditional areas,” says Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies Dr. John Gilligan.

Everybody in the state benefits from having a world-class, land grant, research university, Gilligan says, because of the broad foundation the University has established in teaching, research, and extension over the years. Workforce training is accomplished through a combination of applied degree programs, cooperative learning experiences, internships, distance education, and short courses. Researchers develop new products and services for industry and communities, and often work in tandem with corporate scientists, strengthening the ties of companies to North Carolina. NC State has used technology transfer to create some 13,000 jobs in more than 50 spin-off companies. In addition, university extension programs in fields from engineering and textiles to design and forestry provide about $200 million in annual benefits statewide by solving problems for individuals, companies, and communities.

Working in teams, NC State researchers, educators, and extension service staff continue to address the needs of many industry sectors across North Carolina to help the state remain an economically competitive and attractive place to do business. North Carolina Commerce Secretary Jim Fain maintains, “Through the research being conducted in its colleges and the innovative ideas emerging from Centennial Campus, NC State has made and will continue to make significant contributions to the state’s economy.”