Manufacturing is undergoing a generational change disrupting the economic and cultural fabric of North Carolina. That was the message behind this week’s Emerging Issues Forum, which brought together some of the state’s top business and policy leaders for two days of conversation, networking and speeches. The 28th annual event, sponsored by the Institute for Emerging Issues, was held Monday and Tuesday at the Raleigh Convention Center.
The keynote speaker, former Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, focused on the promise of advanced manufacturing, using a 3-D printer to create a small bust of Darth Vader on stage while he spoke. Today’s children will grow up knowing that anything they can imagine can be manufactured, he said.
Speakers also included Gov. Pat McCrory, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris and Tom Kurfess, assistant director for advanced manufacturing in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The state’s two United States senators, Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, shared the stage for a panel moderated by retired Caterpillar CEO James Owens.
Melinda Walker, communications director for the Institute for Emerging Issues, said it wasn’t that long ago that manufacturing was dead in North Carolina.
“Now we’re talking about a third Industrial Revolution, and people are taking note,” she said.
Students Win Big
A highlight of the forum was the presentation of the 2013 Emerging Issues Prize for Innovation by Chancellor Randy Woodson. The winning teams, from North Vance High School and UNC Chapel Hill, each received $5,000.
Next year the stakes will get even bigger. The State Employees Credit Union Foundation announced the first of four planned $200,000 annual grants in support of the newly named State Employees Credit Union Emerging Issues Prize for Innovation. The 2014 competition will engage college students to collaborate and respond to challenges facing their communities and state, specifically in the areas of education, health, natural and built environments, and the economy. The SECU Foundation’s gift will allow IEI to expand the competition, offering $50,000 in prizes to winning college teams in each issue area.
The institute, founded in 2002 by former Gov. Jim Hunt, brings people together around complex issues in pursuit of a single goal: to ensure North Carolina’s future competitiveness.