Beyond 3D Printing, and Beyond HB2

A week ago, I attended the fall meeting of the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Wake County, the highlight being a presentation by Joe DeSimone. The last time I heard Professor DeSimone speak, he was detailing how nanoparticles can target cancer-fighting drugs on a cellular level. Last week, he was extolling the virtues of machinery and software developed by Carbon3D to "grow" rather than "layer" polymer into bespoke parts for everything from cars to running shoes to medical devices. When I say very intriguing, I'm downplaying the sense of possibility.

Even more intriguing was the straightforward way he answered my question about why the company moved from NC to California. The first half of his answer was expected, about the unsurpassed calibre of experienced team members on the cutting edge of manufacturing and technology found in Silicon Valley vs. the Boston area or the Triangle area. I feel as many North Carolinians do that if we continue to recruit our best and brightest to stay in NC after graduating and continue to push for the best quality public schools and universities, we can improve those odds.

The second half was bold, as he pondered the notion of moving the company back to NC and clarified that it would NEVER happen given the current legislative climate here. He wouldn't do it, and if he did, his staff would revolt. DeSimone worried that the large manufacturing plants in development to use his company's machinery were currently making decisions to avoid NC, for the same reasons that we've seen in the news again recently with the NCAA and ACC. He warned that the large financial losses NC has been feeling are just the surface, and the decisions that haven't been made yet are what is really harming the state's business environment long-term.

DeSimone urged a needed and immediate change in legislative direction as the only thing that would change the business climate. He talked fondly about how as a North Carolinian in the 90s and early '00s he felt the state to be moving with forward momentum into a cutting edge future. And sadly, that has changed.

Afterwards, I had to sit in the parking lot gathering my thoughts. We can't all move to California, right?! So the only answer is this: fight back. We WILL recruit places like Carbon3D back to NC. Because we WILL change direction and start investing in our public school system again. We WILL repeal HB2 and get this yoke of backwardness from slowing down our growth. It will take time, but we have the momentum and we're looking to the future. Drive people to the polls. Talk up your favorite forward-thinking candidate. Make it clear to your state legislators where you stand on HB2. It's the least we can do.

I'm paraphrasing Dr. DeSimone's talk here, but I'm not exaggerating it—and he kindly confirmed that this summary is "spot on." I wish his presentation to the PBK group was available on video. If you want to know more about the Carbon3D technology, see this TED talk.

Text © 2016 Barbara Wiedemann, Design Story Works LLC, "Person, Place, or Thing" blog; 2010 photo by the Chemical Heritage Foundation under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.