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… According to New Southerners

Entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business leaders, educators, and government officials define the New South on the brink of the 21st century.

Perhaps no other geographic region of America has experienced such radical economic shifts as the South. From cotton and tobacco to shipbuilding and military production to heavy manufacturing and factory work to financial services, high-tech innovation, and biomedical research, Dixie has adapted her industries to reflect the priorities and necessities of each economic era. Inevitably, these commercial conquests have left behind an ominous legacy that includes slavery, lumbering factories, and an unparalleled old boys’ network. At the same time, they have spawned an enduring sense of independence, flexibility, and ingenuity — invaluable traits that will undoubtedly steer today’s New South straight into tomorrow’s new economy.

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In fact, the journey is already well underway. While economic analysts were busy training their telescopes on Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, and Route 128 during the latter half of this decade, Southern entrepreneurs, business leaders, educators, and government officials got to work. They began courting major national corporations, beefing up research facilities and economic incubators, luring in venture capitalists, encouraging startups to plant roots, circulating money into schools and universities, and selling the Southern way of life to young high-tech workers.

Earlier this summer, the California-based Milken Institute released a research report titled “America’s High-Tech Economy” that placed five Southern locales (Dallas, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, Austin, and Houston) within the nation’s top 25 metropolitan areas for technological and economic performance. It looks like Southern business leaders are doing something right. And hardly keeping it quiet any longer.

Indeed, the new economy is flourishing in the new New South. Beginning this week, Fast Company associate editor Heath Row sets out on a five-week Road Show from North Carolina to Florida in an effort to uncover the new ventures, forward-thinking business pilots, and best practices that will take the South into the next Millennium.

In honor of Heath’s quest, Fast Company has asked entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, business leaders, educators, and government officials from Raleigh-Durham to Miami to define the New South on the brink of the 21st century. We have asked them to share their biggest frustrations and delights with doing business in the South, their opinions about the area’s greatest prospects, and their projections for the future of this ever-transitioning region.