07 Feb How Has Raleigh Changed in the Past 20 Years?
Over his 20 years leading TimelyText, Ronnie Duncan has noticed a funny change when folks at networking events ask where he’s from.
“I tell them, ‘Right here,'” Duncan said, “and they say, ‘You’re the first person I’ve met from around here.”
Such is life when you’re lucky enough to grow up, start a family and launch a business in what has consistently been one of the fastest growing areas of the country over the past decade, seeing its metro population grow from 635,000 in 2003 to an estimated 1.59 million today.
“It was good and getting better here, why would we go away? That’s why everybody else moves here,” he said. “It’s more diverse than it used to be, and that’s a good thing. The diversity in the Triangle has exploded in the past 20 years, I’d say. It’s both diversity in countries of origin, race but also states of origin.”
Duncan had already succeeded at a previous company he helped launch and manage in the 1990’s, but by 2003, the landscape was changing due to the telecom meltdown and a slowdown in the software business.
“Frankly, in the Late-90s, I think this area thought it was immune to recession because things were great,” Duncan said. “When that telecom sector really bombed, and even the software business was hit by the Dot-Com Meltdown, man, it hurt. This area saw its first real recession in a long time.”
As telecom faded in Raleigh, he was encouraged by the number of small and mid-size startups he saw across technology and pharma.
Novo Nordisk’s Clayton operation has rapidly grown since it shipped its first batches in 1996, and now, the company has three facilities in the Triangle.
But what has allowed a company like Novo – and so many others – to thrive here?
Everyone knows about the University of North Carolina System and the massive population of people with advanced degrees in this area, but Duncan believes there’s another entity just as critical to the area’s success.
“The community college system and its incredible growth, which seems so perfectly aligned with where the world is going from an education perspective,” he said. “Higher education isn’t the only solution, and it’s really the community college system that enables everyone to succeed.
“The old days of, ‘You go get a degree and that’s going to support you,’ that’s not the case anymore; things change so fast. Lifelong learning is so critical now because things are changing so fast. If you stay stagnant, you’ll get passed.”
The only constant for Duncan and TimelyText since 2003 has been change.
Back then, we had no idea how insignificant our rush hour “traffic” was, nor how significant the Carolina Hurricanes trading for Rod Brind’Amour might be. Downtown Durham seemed to be making a comeback, and so too did Carolina Basketball after Roy Williams returned home from Kansas.
Since then, the population is on its way to tripling and TimelyText has gone from serving clients like Nortel and Glaxo, to now serving partners like FUJIFILM Diosynth, Abrigo, First Citizens, and Kymanox.
Even after 20 years in business, Duncan is just excited about what’s in store for TimelyText and this place we call home.
With more than 90 biotech and life science companies currently based in RTP, the next big thing might already be here.
“I don’t know that I would have thought so many drug discovery companies, gene editing companies would be so big, and that may be the next big, big sector,” Duncan said. “If a few of these relatively small companies come up with something that booms, that could be big – especially if they do the manufacturing here, which we have the infrastructure to do.”
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