North Carolina has been growing by leaps and bounds, drawing tens of thousands of people and businesses eager to relocate from other parts of the country.
It’s not hard to see why.
North Carolina offers lower taxes, a robust job market, and an affordable cost of living. It’s also seriously business friendly. The state topped Forbes’ list of the best states for business, thanks to a mega-educated talent pool, the low cost of doing business (NC recently dropped its corporate tax rate from 3% to 2.5%), and a startup ecosystem on steroids.
Among the most popular destinations for newcomers is Raleigh, home of NC State, which anchors one corner of the famed Research Triangle. Let’s kick off our tour of Raleigh’s features, benefits, and attractions with a look at its ascendancy as a startup hub.
“City of Oaks”—and opportunities
Raleigh’s oak-lined streets gave rise to its nickname, but entrepreneurial initiatives, support, and resources for founders are taking root as well. According to the Wake County Economic Development blog, Raleigh is home to more than 500 startup companies across industry sectors that include software, life sciences, clean tech, and IoT.
One of the biggest players in Raleigh’s startup scene is open source provider Red Hat (which lends its name to the Red Hat Amphitheater, as well as the 19-story Red Hat Tower). What began as a startup itself in 1993 is now a multinational company with scores of acquisitions and partnerships under its belt. In July 2019, IBM acquired Red Hat for $34 billion.
Red Hat, along with Citrix, the city of Raleigh, and co-working community HQ Raleigh, also participates in the Raleigh Innovators Program, which conducts a three-month accelerator program for internal teams and external startups.
NC State is another major contributor to Raleigh’s emergence as a dynamic startup hub. Its Entrepreneurship Garage is “a venture creation and prototyping space designed for student entrepreneurs,” providing co-working space, prototyping equipment, workshops, and mentors.
And groups like Innovate Raleigh are dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship in the region “by bringing together key stakeholders within our ecosystem—entrepreneurs, investors, and supporting organizations.”
The cultural landscape
Beyond its entrepreneurial energy and opportunities for innovation and business development, Raleigh offers a vibrant cultural scene, with museums (history, art, natural sciences, children’s), galleries, festivals, and lots of music and performance venues, including the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, which houses two theaters, an auditorium, and a concert hall.
The culinary scene is garnering national attention as well. As Food & Wine put it, “There's no question that North Carolina's capital city is having a major food moment.” Brewery Bhavana, a combination floral shop, brewery, bookstore, and dim sum restaurant (no, really) has earned high marks from Bon Appetit and was recently featured in a three-part series by Forbes.
And we’re talking about North Carolina, after all, so let’s not forget barbecue. Like The Pit Authentic Barbecue, which has grabbed the attention of the Food Network and the Travel Channel. For a look at all of Raleigh’s dining options, barbecue or otherwise, check out TripAdvisor’s latest restaurant roundup.
Raleigh data from the flight deck
- Population (City): 469,298
- Population (MSA): 1,335,079
- Male/Female: 47.7%/52.3%
- Median age: 33.8 years
- Median household income: $72,576
Median home value: $278,400
Median rent price: $1,073
Cost of living index: 111 (the US average is 100)
Unemployment rate: 3.6%
Data Sources: US Census Bureau, Department of Numbers; Zillow