SKVARLA: Lets play Jeopardy! Category: the N.C. economy

My duties as commerce secretary take me across the state each week. I meet with groups large and small. I visit country crossroads and major metro areas, as well as suburbs and exurbs. Those I speak and listen to are a mix of business people, local government officials, and community leaders.
Despite their great diversity, I have found even the best-informed North Carolinians are not aware of just how important their state’s economic power has become. While there’s nothing trivial about issues like jobs and taxes, I’ve compiled a few facts about the state’s economy that often surprise people. Category is the North Carolina Economy.
What is the value of North Carolina’s economy?
Our state’s gross domestic product (GDP) — the value of all goods and services we produce in the course of a year — currently totals $508 billion. That makes us America’s 9th largest economy. If we were our own country, we’d have the 23rd largest economy in the world.
Announcements by major corporations about expansions and relocations are important, and North Carolina sees more than its share of them. But the headline-grabbing plans of one or two well-known names won’t put much of a dent in a state economy whose size is somewhere between that of Norway and Taiwan.
What role do small companies play in our business community?
Small businesses — those with 500 and fewer employees — account for 98 percent of all businesses in North Carolina. Together they employ nearly half the state’s private workforce.
While homegrown, family-owned businesses may be small, their collective impact on the job market is huge. That’s why under Governor Pat McCrory, the state has sharpened workforce readiness through our NCWorks Career Centers, a user-friendly place that connects employers with the right workers. In 2014, NC Commerce surveyed small firms to find out how many were having difficulty hiring. At that time 44 percent reported that they were. Today the number has fallen to 39 percent, evidence that NCWorks is helping small employers find ready talent.
What is North Carolina’s population?
We’re now home to more than 10 million residents, which makes us the ninth most populous state in the country — and counting. Since 2000, the state has gained nearly 2 million new residents, roughly equal to the entire population of Nebraska.
North Carolina’s attraction of new residents says all the right things about our economy. But it also necessitates ongoing investments in new infrastructure. The Connect NC bond package approved by voters earlier this year makes significant investments in water and wastewater systems, classroom and lab buildings at our universities and communities colleges, National Guard facilities and our state park system. Along with major upgrades to our highways, ports, and rail these investments will go far in ensuring North Carolina can absorb this remarkable growth.
Newly arriving residents also put a premium on our job creation efforts. In 2015, for example, U-Haul named us the No. 1 growth state. The measure is based on the number of U-Haul vehicles heading into North Carolina. Though we have newcomers at all ages of life and career, many arrive here without jobs, but hoping they will soon find one.
We want them to succeed in North Carolina and are doing our best to keep them here.
Arguably, North Carolina has the No. 1 performing economy in the United States and an exceptional workforce.
John E. Skvarla III is secretary of the N.C. Department of Commerce.