TEConomy Report Highlights North Carolina's Life Sciences Growth

TEConomy 2022 report

By now it should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the global life sciences marketplace that North Carolina makes an important and expanding contribution to the sector’s growth.

That message is abundantly clear in the newly published analysis, "Evidence & Opportunity 2022: Impact of Life Sciences in NC," which documents why North Carolina continues to garner global admiration in the field.

Bottom line in this report’s evaluation of the past two years: the global turmoil wrought by the COVID pandemic has produced a positive run for North Carolina’s life sciences community:

  • Since 2018, life sciences employment in the state grew by 13%, compared to just 3% in the overall private sector
  • Since 2018 North Carolina has experienced a 38% increase in life sciences-related business establishments, “well outpacing national growth at 14%”
  • NCBiotech tracked 63 expansion and relocation growth announcements during the last two fiscal years, with the potential to create 9,115 new North Carolina jobs, and more continue to come in
  • North Carolina’s life sciences companies provide high-quality jobs, with average annual wages in 2021 of $112,000, nearly double the $60,000 average for the overall private sector
  • The state’s life sciences sector generates $2.4 billion in state and local government revenues

“This report is appropriately titled, because it provides concrete evidence of North Carolina’s tremendous growth in the life sciences as compared to the U.S. overall,” said Doug Edgeton, president and CEO of NCBiotech. “In addition, it does point to a few opportunities for N.C. to continue growing the sector, which we always welcome.”

Every two years for the past 14, NCBiotech has published this examination under a contract with TEConomy Partners, the highly respected Columbus, Ohio-based consulting firm. It’s a months-long data dive by outside professionals to understand how well the Center is accomplishing its mission to transform North Carolina’s economy through an ever-growing base of global life sciences leadership.

“Since that first report, the estimated revenues of the North Carolina life sciences sector have more than doubled and the economic contribution of the sector has effectively doubled,” TEConomy writes. “Sector employment has increased by 39% and the total North Carolina jobs supported by the sector increased by 25%. The life sciences sector remains an important and growing driver of the North Carolina economy.”

The executive summary opening this 60-page seventh edition notes that “The industry’s standing and position today has been hard-earned and can be traced back, in part, to the early foresight and consistent dedication of NCBiotech, with annual funding allocated by the State of North Carolina.”

Where we excel

North Carolina’s 13% life sciences employment increase since 2018 puts it among the top-performing states: tied with California for third place and just behind the perennial powerhouse Massachusetts, which logged 21% growth, and Texas, only slightly higher than N.C., at 15%. 

TEConomy cites four major life sciences “subsectors” in which the Old North State “stars”:

  • Drugs and pharmaceuticals (#4 in the nation)
  • Research, testing, and medical labs (#6 in the nation)
  • Bioscience-related distribution (#8 in the nation)
  • Agricultural feedstock and industrial biosciences (#11 in the nation)

The research, testing, and medical labs sector, along with the state’s bioscience-related distribution sector, have enjoyed especially high employment growth in the state. They’ve both outpaced national job growth stats since 2014.

“North Carolina’s strong recent growth in research, testing, and medical labs is driven by both of its major component sectors—commercial R&D in the life sciences, and medical labs,” notes TEConomy. “The former has grown at a rapid 27% rate over the latest 3-year period and now exceeds 24,000 jobs, representing the single largest detailed life sciences industry in the state. The sector’s R&D activities span all facets of life sciences R&D including those business establishments driving innovation and new product development in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and the ag biosciences.”

Significance of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center

“For nearly four decades, NCBiotech has effectively designed and implemented programs and initiatives that span the broad set of unique development requirements for the life sciences and provide a competitive advantage for North Carolina,” the report says. “The Center has established itself as a trusted partner, working to ensure life sciences companies of all sizes and stages of development are able to access and effectively leverage the research, technology, talent, and capital resources across North Carolina and beyond.”

TEConomy also applauds NCBiotech’s statewide reach, with the headquarters in Research Triangle Park and regional offices in Wilmington, Greenville, Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Asheville.

“The diversity of North Carolina’s life science industry is not only inherent in the breadth of industry strengths, but further by its geographic reach across every region of the state,” says TEConomy. “NCBiotech, its partner organizations, and stakeholders across the state have worked and invested deliberately to establish a life sciences cluster that reaches every corner of North Carolina.”

TEConomy says NCBiotech is “a dedicated entity designed to ensure a team of talented individuals wake up every day thinking about how to continue to grow this high-value industry sector.” It notes that the Center delivers its programming through five primary domain areas:

  • Funds for commercializing university research and boosting early-stage company development
  • Talent development initiatives and career networking
  • Investor and industry connections to fill gaps
  • Unique spaces to accelerate company growth
  • Access to high-value information resources

TEConomy statistics sometimes differ from those amassed by NCBiotech researchers because the data are gathered differently. For example, since its first report in 2008, TEConomy has always drawn upon data contained in a set of industry identification codes it deems appropriate for defining the life sciences. The codes are from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which was developed for use by federal statistical agencies for the collection, analysis and publication of statistical data. NCBiotech researchers, meanwhile, conduct ongoing surveys and evaluations of life sciences entities statewide to develop the data published by the Center.

NCBiotech loan and grant programs

The report notes that since NCBiotech made its first loan to a startup company in 1989, there are now 126 active life sciences companies across the state that have received loans from the Center. They directly employ 3,797 people and support 12,484 total jobs, generate an estimated $3.4 billion in revenue and provide $5.1 billion in economic activity to the state.

Also, since its founding 39 years ago, NCBiotech has distributed 3,206 grants totaling $160 million to colleges and universities involved in life sciences research statewide. Many of those ideas have been transformed into commercializable products at startup companies.

The BBB success

One recent highlight noted in the report is the NCBiotech-led coalition that secured nearly $25 million for life sciences ecosystem development projects statewide.

North Carolina, and the coalition led by NCBiotech (the Accelerate NC—Life Sciences Manufacturing Coalition), was one of just 21 winning states/regions nationally in the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge Phase 2 Award program.

The funding will further strengthen the state’s life sciences manufacturing cluster by “expanding, connecting, and promoting training and career opportunities to underserved and distressed communities, including historically excluded populations.”

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