|By Scott Carlberg, Manager, Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster|
Any group that is 37,000 people strong with a $2.2 billion annual payroll is worth attention. That was essentially the basis to create the Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster (CNC), an industrial economic development organization. Carolinians are world leaders in the design, construction and supply of electricity from nuclear energy.
The Carolinas supply roughly 11 percent of the nation’s nuclear energy. The Carolinas are home to significant publicly traded power generating firms, major energy engineering firms, a DOE site with a nuclear emphasis and higher education that educates the workforce. North Carolina has five nuclear reactors in operation; more than 30 percent of the state’s total electricity generation. South Carolina has seven operating reactors; more than 50 percent of the state’s total electric generation, with two new units in construction.
Just as critically is the reach of our professionals, who deplane at the Charlotte Airport from the UK, France, Finland, Japan, Vietnam, Brazil, Australia, India, Poland, South Africa, Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia, UAE, China and other countries.
The Carolinas have a cluster of nuclear companies serving our nation and the world.
The Cluster Concept
An industry cluster, defined by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, is: “…a geographically proximate group of companies and associated institutions in a particular field, linked by commonalities and complementarities.” Silicon Valley is an example for software and computers. Napa Valley has a wine industry cluster. North Carolina is an example in furniture. Both Carolinas have nuclear energy.
Why does a cluster matter? Industry clusters account for a disproportionate share of economic growth. In the U.S., roughly 28 percent of employees are associated with industry clusters but account for 38 percent of income. They also generate about 97 percent of patents.
Companies within clusters come together to increase efficiency and innovation within an industry, boosting the overall economy in the region. They support new business development, enhance existing business, recruit companies to an area, and identify workforce needs and marketing strategies.
Porter’s recent report, “Prosperity At Risk: Findings of Harvard Business School’s Survey on U.S. Competitiveness,” lays out a challenge to American industry:
“… Business can and must be a positive part of the solution to America’s competitiveness problem. Individually and collectively, firms can upgrade the business environment in the communities where they operate – by supporting educational institutions, building shared infrastructure, investing in workforce skills, deepening clusters…”
Porter’s challenge reflects the daily life of the Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster, a roster of companies, universities, community colleges, and citizen organizations with a strong presence in the Carolinas and the multi-national nuclear industry.
HOW IT BEGAN
An economic development organization, New Carolina, built a record of successful cluster start-ups in areas such as automotive, advanced security and insurance technology. That drew the attention of nuclear energy professionals in 2007. They recognized the nuclear industry’s significant presence in the Carolinas, though it was undefined across the two states and corporate lines.
The group analyzed their industry and developed a strategic plan in 2008. The plan outlined five topical areas for a stronger industry: Economic development, workforce development, technology development, public policy and communications.
The Cluster is now more than 50 organizations strong, its roster a blue-ribbon group of industry experts.
Leadership of the CNC rotates from within. Duke Energy provided the inaugural chair; Westinghouse the second chair; URS Corporation has the current chair; Areva takes the helm in 2013. A paid manager guides daily operations.
Several key activities have gained significant traction for the CNC:
“Leadership Energy Carolinas” develops emerging young professionals. After four years of the program there are roughly 100 young high-potential ‘go to’ professionals networked for success; a competitive advantage for the Carolinas.
Better understanding of the supply chain: A team has examined the U.S. and global nuclear supply chain to understand market opportunities.
Small business outreach: A team searched for small firms to be part of the nuclear industry based on supplier information sessions, quality assurance classes and networking among industry groups.
Technology development: The industry and research universities are working closely on new technologies for new plant designs and existing operations.
Economic impact: The CNC sponsored independent research to define the economic impact of the industry in the Carolinas.
An annual publication – ENERGIZED: This is used to promote the industry with potential customers, policy-makers and economic development professionals.
Perhaps most importantly we have built a cadre of people who work well together; think together. When executives scout our region for their relocations or expansions, we are told that our energy executives have an intuitive sense about how to compete and how to cooperate.
Individually and as a team, CNC members will continue to provide cost-effective and efficient power in the Carolinas and other states. As our world looks for dependable, carbonless and cost-effective energy, we are out in the multi-national marketplace as well.
North Carolinian Michael Jordan says, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”
The CNC is on the court for this industrial championship.
For more information on the Carolinas’ Nuclear Cluster, contact the organization at [email protected].