Digital domain: North Carolina's tech industry shows resiliency as smaller companies earn backing from giants.

Author:Martin, Cathy
 
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When Business North Carolina reported on the state's technology industry in 2000, there were about 4,700 tech-related businesses here, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce. But 15 years later, more than 10,000 tech companies call the Tar Heel state home, the North Carolina Technology Association says. The figure swells to more than 16,000 when including energy and environmental technology and life-sciences firms. 'Technology employment has led the way in new hiring, particularly in the larger metros," Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo and Co., said in a February report on the state's economy. Employment in tech-related jobs in the Raleigh-Cary metro area increased 13.6% last year, while Charlotte added 1,300 3 jobs in the sector, a 2.7% increase, according to the report.

A more vibrant, diversified tech industry has emerged, even as employment at many larger companies has declined. It's estimated IBM Corp. employs about half of the 16,000 it reported in 2000. One exception among big companies is Cary-based analytics-software vendor SAS Institute Inc., which has added more than 2,000 workers over the last 15 years. While most of the industry's growth is happening in the Triangle, North Carolina's undisputed tech hub, other regions are also experiencing gains. AvidXchange Inc., an accounting-software firm, announced in September it will add 600 jobs and invest $21 million to expand its headquarters in Charlotte. DoctorDirectory. com LLC, an Asheville-based startup that connects patients with health care providers, sold last year for $65 million to New York-based digital-media company Everyday Health Inc. in what's considered the biggest tech deal in western N.C. history. In Wilmington, banking software company nCino Inc. this year raised more than $29 million in venture funding, and CEO Pierre Naude projects the 3-year-old company will reach annual sales of $50 million by 2018 ("Code Green," December).

While the industry appears robust, there's work to be done to compete for jobs and funding with established technology states such as California and Massachusetts and emerging ones such as Colorado, Texas and Virginia. Venture-capital funding lags other states with strong tech sectors, as does funding for research and development, according to a 2015 NCTA report. Silicon Valley, the New York metro area and New England accounted for 69% of all VC funding in the U.S. in 2014, while less than 4% of investment dollars went to...

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