A Way Forward: Building a Globally Competitive South
Immense changes have come about in both North Carolina and the South more broadly in the last half century. Both our state and the region as a whole experienced rapid economic growth in the second half of the twentieth century, and living standards for the vast majority of the population in the South improved dramatically. By the mid-1980s, sufficient time had elapsed so that the South’s postwar economic record could be placed in a broader and more balanced historical context, a task that seemed particularly important because signs of economic distress had begun to surface in both the state and the region as a whole. And, once again, much of the best analysis emanated from North Carolina, this time from two Triangle-based research organizations, the Southern Growth Policies Board (SGPB) and MDC. Both of these organizations had close ties to UNC and to Chapel Hill, and their 1986 reports—the SGPB’s Halfway Home and a Long Way to Go and MDC’s Shadows in the Sunbelt (available as PDFs to the left)—are considered two of the best assessments of the achievements and limitations of the so-called Sunbelt boom.
Some of these changes in the broader global economy have proven enormously beneficial, while others have led to dislocations and still others to economic devastation and social despair.
The 25 years since the issuance of these reports have been marked by profound economic changes from which neither North Carolina nor the South has been spared.
Given the magnitude of change, 2011 seemed to principals at the Global Research Institute a good time to take another look at these famous objectives, to assess how the recommendations contained therein held up over time, to offer fresh analyses of the economic challenges facing both North Carolina and the South, and to lay out some new ideas about how to forge ahead.