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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC-In recent years, Research Triangle Park has become the place to be in North Carolina if you’re a technology company and want to compete domestically as well as internationally.

The 7,000-acre research park is roughly eight miles long, two miles wide and lies within the triangle formed by Durham, Raleigh and Chapel Hill. It was started by leaders in both the public and private sectors to improve the state’s economy. The park is a special tax district not controlled by any town or city.

Strict development policies are followed to preserve a campus-like atmosphere. In just five years, the park’s work force has risen more than 20%, fueled by a combination of Internet behemoths and an increase in smaller startups.

Nearly 80,000 information technology workers are employed in the Triangle, about half within the park. This represents about a third of the state’s IT work force, according to industry trade figures. By comparison, the more highly- populated Charlotte region employs less than 70,000 high-tech workers.

Another indication of the park’s power is that it is home to most of the state’s venture capital funds–80% last year, compared with about nine percent for Charlotte. Venture capitalists poured $1.29 billion into Triangle companies in 1999, up over 400% from the year before, reports the park-based Center for Entrepreneurial Development.

he rumor mill has it that Charlotte needs its own research park if it wants to keep up in today’s economy.

In addition to office complexes, RTP has a hotel, a restaurant, a bus station and its own post office. But one of its biggest problems is traffic congestion, a situation that officials are trying to work out by providing more public transportation.

The park has long been dominated by large corporations and government research facilities, but RTP is increasingly becoming a hotbed of high-tech startups.

There are numerous signs indicating RTP’s growing status. For example, companies from miles away will sometimes take post office boxes in the park just so they can use RTP on their letterhead.

Midway Airlines recently started direct flights twice a day from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to San Jose, CA, home of Silicon Valley.

A significant advantage of being based in the park is that it provides a collaborative environment with access to large companies, something that is often crucial to young startups.

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