For years, Durham has played Raleigh’s little brother, tagging along and getting less attention. It’s Raleigh-Durham International Airport, not the other way around. Until a few years ago, they were part of the same metropolitan statistical area, in which Raleigh, of course, got top billing. When national magazines compile best-of lists, they usually think of Raleigh first.
Forbes, for example, says Durham is 12th among the nation’s “best places for business and careers.” But Raleigh is No. 1. Sure, Durham occasionally beats out Raleigh. Site Selection magazine says it ranks fourth for employment in science and engineering as a percentage of its work force, while Raleigh ranks 19th. But Raleigh has more science and engineering jobs. In that same issue, Raleigh ranked sixth in its size classification for corporate building projects, while Durham didn’t crack the top 10.
So it’s pretty sweet for Durham — though city officials are loath to admit it publicly — when it beats Raleigh outright, as it did in a recent issue of Fortune Small Business. The magazine says Durham is the 12th-best place to live and launch a business, while Raleigh just barely made the top 20. Durham’s biotech and drug industries were lauded, along with its arts festivals and college sports. Raleigh got props for its tech sector and its location amid major research and business centers but demerits for infrastructure that’s struggling to keep up with its population. (Does that mean Raleigh has gotten too big for its bridges?) On the downside for the Bull City, the magazine says it’s “perceived as the underdog of the Triangle region.”
“That’s probably been true,” says Alan DeLisle, Durham’s assistant city manager for economic and work-force development. But several high-profile projects are helping to change that, he says, including the renovation of an old tobacco-factory complex and construction of a 2,800-seat performing-arts center, which is set to open later this year. “There’s a transformation going on in people’s minds, where they’re recognizing that there are a lot of new things happening in Durham.”
But perceptions die hard. In May, the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, a nonprofit that touts the 13-county region, listed Durham’s 12th-place finish after Raleigh’s 20th-place ranking on its Accolades Web page. That slight was corrected within a few days. But it suggests that Durham still has work to do before it’s more than an afterthought. “I don’t think we’ve reached the mountaintop yet,” DeLisle says. “But it is changing.”
Normally, when demand for a product or service goes down, prices do, too. Not so at the RBC Center in Raleigh. Though attendance dropped 4% last season and the Carolina Hurricanes played more like tropical depressions — missing the playoffs for the second straight year — most of the pro hockey team’s remaining fans will shell out more per seat next year. The team will raise season-ticket prices 10% in 12 of 15 seating categories. Single-game tickets will go up as much as 67%. The team needs to boost revenue because the National Hockey League’s revenue-sharing program penalizes teams that increase revenue slower than the league average.