Higher education institutions in the 16-county Charlotte area are a major advantage in business recruitment and retention. Not only do they turn out knowledgeable and job-ready graduates, but they provide ongoing workforce development programs and other initiatives on which they collaborate directly with business. The universities supply a great deal of the brainpower behind an impressive collection of research assets that add value to companies in diverse industries.
UNC Charlotte, includes more than a half-dozen major research institutes and centers, focusing on areas such as e-commerce technology, photonic devices and optics, and precision engineering and measurement. Its cybersecurity program was a pioneer in the field and was among the first in the country to be recognized by the National Security Agency as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and Research.
Research Campus Life
The $1 billion North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis serves as a hub for university and private-sector research. The eight universities on campus are conducting innovative research in health and nutrition.
“We wanted to bring the best of academia along with business-and-industry to do research, all on one campus to work together,” says Clyde Higgs, North Carolina Research Campus vice president for business development. “Universities do a great job coming up with new thoughts and ideas, but it is industry's responsibility to get new innovations, products, services and technologies to the marketplace where they can actually help people. At NCRC, universities and businesses are involved in collaborative research and scientific breakthroughs, primarily in the areas of human health, nutrition and agriculture.”
The impressive collection of university research at NCRC includes Appalachian State University's Exercise Biochemistry Laboratory. Appalachian State is conducting a study with Dole Foods to see if bananas have as much effectiveness as sports drinks in replenishing vitamins back into the bodies of athletes. UNC-Charlotte's BioInformatics Center at NCRC will provide specialized computer system and data management solutions and analysis for academic researchers and biotech companies. Duke University's Translational Medicine Institute is studying diabetes and obesity. NC Central University, NC State University, North Carolina A&T, UNC Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro also are engaged in unique research projects at the NCRC.
Research universities aren’t the only institutions of higher education on campus. Rowan-Cabarrus Community College has opened a 63,000-square-foot biotechnology training center on site with 150 students enrolled.
A number of private companies are taking advantage of the intellectual synergy and are working with the universities to find health care solutions and bring them to market. Among those are Dole Foods, General Mills, LabCorp, Monsanto and Sensory Spectrum, Higgs says. Dole has a particular interest in the NCRC, since it was founded by Dole Foods owner David Murdoch, an avid proponent of healthy food and human wellness.
“Additionally, the NCRC is an economic development tool that injects economic vigor in the research areas for this region,” Higgs says.
Two-year colleges in Charlotte USA help build the region’s workforce. One of those institutions is Rock Hill, S.C.-based York Technical College, whose mission is to support economic development and strive to meet the needs of business.
“We offer three main areas of study – health and human services, industrial and engineering technology, and business and computer technology,” says Greg Rutherford, president of York Tech. “Those are hot-button careers today. We want our students to study what interests them, then eventually graduate and find fulfilling employment. We also offer free upstart training to employees at new businesses that are locating in the region. York Technical College, too, is all about knowledge and helping the regional economy thrive.”