New ebook offers blueprint for building a globally competitive South

A Way Forward: Building a Globally Competitive South, Edited by Daniel P. Gitterman and Peter CoclanisOn November 17, 2011, the Global Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University co-hosted “A Way Forward: Building a Globally Competitive South”—a public forum and discussion about the globalization of the American South and how the region can best prepare for the years ahead.

The event marked the official release of a collection of essays of the same name, issued by the Global Research Institute.

The paperback and e-book versions of this volume, edited by Daniel P. Gitterman and Peter A. Coclanis and distributed through the University of North Carolina Press, are now available.

A Way Forward features more than 30 essays containing key recommendations and strategies for building a more globally competitive South. Readers will discover ways we can work collaboratively to build on North Carolina’s tradition as a leader in the South, and ensure the state’s future competitiveness.

The 220-page book is priced at $28.00 in paperback and at $15.00 as an e-book for the Kindle, the Nook, and Sony eReader, and at

Immense changes have come about in both North Carolina and the South more broadly in the last half-century. Both the 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.

Much of the best analysis emanated from North Carolina, 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”—are considered two of the best assessments of the achievements and limitations of the so-called Sunbelt boom.

The 25 years since the issuance of these reports have been marked by profound economic changes—many due to globalization—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 reports, 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.

Gitterman and Coclanis note three recurring themes in this collection:

First and foremost is the overarching importance of investment, or, rather, smart investment, in human capital, especially in learning and skill acquisition.

Second, for the South to generate self-sustained growth and development, entrepreneurship and innovation will have to play stronger roles in the region’s economy.

Third, in order to enhance the region’s human capital and foster entrepreneurship and innovation, we will have to find ways to overcome the remaining historical constraints that have long impeded the South’s progress, particularly in rural areas and in inner cities where the region’s “shadows” are most marked. The most prominent of these constraints are related to and, in fact, grow out of the economic and social inequities begat by racial slavery centuries ago.

The editors conclude that in order successfully to address these three themes, our leaders must find a way to forge a bipartisan, pro-growth economic agenda and, in order to implement it, embrace creative public-private partnerships of various kinds.

A Way Forward is an important, accessible, and nonpartisan contribution to charting the future of our state and our region.