Our History

Day One (2006-2009)                                    

Gen Smith, LtGen Helland, GEN Kernan, Mr. Nelson

Day One focused on taking inventory of NC's defense and economic assets, developing an appreciation for the national defense industry, and creating a state-wide strategy for growth. With support from industry, the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the state’s leading economic development organizations the Foundation identified the existing and potential abilities of N.C.’s businesses, academia, and research institutes as they aligned with the extant and emerging needs of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

This early effort resulted in the publication of the Foundation’s forward-looking 2009 Defense Asset Inventory and Target Industry Cluster Strategy, which provided a strategy for delivering growth that had never existed for NC's defense sector. It specifically targets six innovation clusters where NC expresses, or could express significant comparative advantages. These areas are: C4ISR (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance), performance materials, RESET/vehicles support activities, unmanned systems human factors, and fuels and power.

The impact of this strategy was immediate. The N.C. Department of Commerce, regional and local economic development organizations, UNC, the N.C. Community College System and defense-focused businesses quickly took steps to implement the strategy.

                            Day 2 (2010-2012)

Day two began with the insertion of Lance DeSpain as the Foundation's Executive Director and the focusing of effort around the special operations community. This move was particularly logical considering that (1) North Carolina's defense industry is characterized by small-medium sized innovative companies with cutting edge technologies and capabilities, (2) NC is home to three major special operations commands (USASOC, MARSOC, and JSOC), and, (3) today’s special operations gear will comprise tomorrow’s General Purpose Forces equipment. Day Two also marked an expansion of the Foundation’s nonmilitary interactions; evidenced by visits to over 250 NC firms operating within the state's key strength areas and the development of strong relationships with NC legislators who have since become important advocates of the Foundation and its initiatives.

During this period, the Foundation brokered the historic partnership between the N.C. Motorsports Association and US Army Special Operations Command. By creating the opportunity for these two elite entities to share capabilities, requirements, and training specific to vehicle performance and soldier safety; the Foundation demonstrated its ability to bring unparalleled technical abilities to our nation's special operators while simultaneously creating new opportunities for N.C. businesses.

The Foundation also worked to connect these special operations commands to North Carolina's renowned colleges, universities, and research institutions. The following Foundation-influenced initiatives are now underway:

·         UNC faculty support military human performance programs by providing access to their research facilities and consulting military planners as they develop new training facilities.

·         Special operations forces medic instructors participate in a specifically designed program that allows them to explore the latest and best practices currently in use by UNC doctors and medical staff while simultaneously sharing important emergency medicine techniques learned on the battlefield. 

·         The UNC School of Medicine, with funding from BlueCross BlueShield of N.C., sponsors a fast-track physician’s assistant program for special operations forces medic physicians to ensure that their skill sets are fully utilized upon their re-entry into the civilian workforce.

·         UNC professors, administrators and researchers routinely provide subject matter expertise on topics spanning agriculture and animal care, aquaculture, construction engineering and rural development through its Civil Affairs Support program.

·        Other N.C.’s industries that benefitted from the Foundation’s focus on special operations forces include computer and video gaming, biotechnology and textiles. 

Day Three (2013 to 2015)____________

As predicted by the Foundation, the 2009 target markets have become interconnected, creating a defense ecosystem unique to N.C.  With this awareness, the Foundation has further refined its strategy to focus on cross-over initiatives that support multiple markets and address the needs of special operations forces, major commands (i.e. U.S. Cyber Command), and research institutions (i.e. Army Research Office) that operate in NC's core competency areas. This refined strategy will guide all of the Foundation’s 2013 – 2015 core activities and has the full support of its Board of Directors. 

Day Three Cross-Over initiatives:

-   Foster a cyber security/intelligence cluster to attract complex DoD projects.

-   Advance the state’s emerging expertise in unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

-   Solidify and further the relationship between the N.C. motorsports industry and the U.S. Special Operations Command with a focus on USASOC.

-   Develop foreign language and cultural programs specific to the needs of special operations forces and the N.C. National Guard.

-   Heighten awareness of the state’s expertise in nanotechnology science and textiles and biotechnology.

-   Connect NC's innovative medical research and treatment of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury (PTSD/TBI) to military commands and soldiers.

  • The Foundation’s “Day 3” strategy also benefits military personnel and their families, including initiatives that facilitate veteran transition into the civilian workforce, increase access to higher-education opportunities, and promote financial literacy.