Up Front: February 2005

Making a name for yourself

Twenty years ago, Business North Carolina published its first Economic Almanac, an issue of the magazine devoted to examining changes that affected the state economy during the past year while trying to forecast those it would face in the future. Over the years, we accomplished that by breaking the state apart and examining the pieces.

Some years we did it by industry; others, by region. Sometimes we picked a theme — the way we work, the decade ahead, the state’s rivers, its highways — as a frame to build the editorial content upon. These special issues proved popular with readers and advertisers and won the magazine national awards. But taken as a whole — comparing one year’s almanac with the next — they didn’t provide a comprehensive, coherent picture of what was transpiring over time.

So in 1994 we launched the Business Handbook. The first featured our Mover and Shaker of the Year, but the focus was on packing as much data on Tar Heel industries and places as we could get between two covers. The next year, we plucked the Mover and Shaker piece, placing it in the preceding issue, where it appears today.

By 1996, we were back to themes — concentrating on big stories that kicked off the issue and led into the lists, snapshots, charts and other data. Some could have run in any issue of BNC. Though we produced some groundbreaking journalism — which won more awards — we realized that we once again had wandered away from the issue’s purpose. The Business Handbook you hold in your hands is our effort to get back to the basics. In many ways, it resembles the 1995 version more than it does those that followed. Call it back to the future.

But don’t dare think of it as a relic we’ve dug up and dusted off. Most of what you’ll find on these pages are the things you’ve come to expect. But we’ve also realigned the industry snapshots to convey more accurately what’s happening here in the 21st century and made sure the stories cover not only the year that was but the year that will be. After all, as I’ve said on this page dozens of times during these last two decades, change is what business in North Carolina — and Business North Carolina — is all about.