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Aerial view of the Dorothea Dix Hospital land that became NC State University’s Centennial Campus, 1987. Governor Hunt had the state transfer this land to the university at the end of his second term.
“We saw the world changing. We knew we had to change. We spotted where the jobs of the future were going to be, and we went after them.”
—Jim Hunt, from Jim Hunt: A Biography, 2010

Are we ready for the 1980s?

“Are we ready for the 1980s?” Hunt asked in his second State of the State Address in 1979.

Hunt’s 1980 gubernatorial campaign presented a transformational agenda of economic devel­opment, entrepreneurial innovation, and investment in groundbreaking technological industries and infrastructure. International trade missions had helped him envision new public­private partnerships as well.

Educational quality and access and their crucial role in economic growth remained a core value for Hunt. He believed that for North Carolina to move forward citizens must be ready to embrace new competitive economic models and business practices and to focus on emerging technologies. Hunt’s work to cultivate a highly educated work­force continued in the private sector through the 1980s.

Charlie Jones
Jim Hunt with Terry Sanford at Hunt’s second inauguration, January 1981.
John Rottet, the News & Observer, courtesy of the State Archives of North Carolina
Henry Frye being sworn in as a justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. Appointed by Governor Hunt in 1983, he was the first African American to hold the position. Hunt appointed Frye chief justice in 1999.
Courtesy of the Microelectronics Center of NC
Courtesy of the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina
Courtesy of the Microelectronics Center of NC
Jim Hunt and former MCNC president Don Beilman, with the architect’s model of the future Microelectronics Center, 1983.

Microelectronics Center of NC

Microelectronics Center of North Carolina

The Microelectronics Center of North Carolina

A blue-ribbon committee charged with exploring the microelectronics industry was formed in the spring of 1980 and included the heads of Duke University, UNC–Chapel Hill, and the state’s community colleges. The committee’s work led Hunt to establish the Microelectronics Center in 1982, facilitating research that supports government, higher education, and industry partners.

American Aerial Photos, courtesy of NCBC
The North Carolina Biotechnology Center. The James B. Hunt Jr. Leadership Annex, dedicated in 2010, is in the right foreground.

NC Biotechnology Center

North Carolina Biotechnology Center

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center

The North Carolina Biotechnology Center, one of the first organizations of its kind, was established by Hunt in 1984 to combine the economies of research and biotechnology. By 2010 North Carolina was among the three states with the highest employment in biotechnology and bioscience.

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Shown with a model of Centennial Campus are Jerry L. Whitten, Claude McKinney, Ralph K. Calvin II, and NC State Chancellor Larry K. Monteith, 1991.

Planning for Centennial Campus

Planning meeting for Centennial Campus, NC State. Claude McKinney (left), shepherded the development of Centennial Campus for more than fifteen years, first as a special assistant to the chancellor and then as director of Centennial Campus, a position he held until his retirement in 2000.

NC State University
Construction of Research I, the first building on Centennial Campus, 1987.

Centennial Campus

Named the nation’s top research park in 2007, NC State’s Centennial Campus spurs multidisciplinary collaboration among students, faculty, and researchers, as well as corporate, governmental, and institutional partners. The campus was founded on the belief that the answers to the world’s most challenging issues—education, energy and sustainability, the environment, and health—will come from technology, innovation, and partnerships between great thinkers and leaders.

Centennial Campus almost didn’t happen. In 1984, when real estate developers came calling about the open farmland pared from the Dorothea Dix Hospital grounds, Hunt had “one of those light-bulb moments” instead. He knew that NC State needed to grow to maintain its competitive reputation, and he envisioned a new research campus for the school. In December Hunt allotted the initial portion, totaling 355 acres, of a land transfer from Dorothea Dix to NC State. By February 1985, an additional parcel of 450 acres was added by Governor Jim Martin. More land was added during Governor Hunt’s third term.

Now a national model for university research campuses, Centennial Campus houses more than sixty companies, government agencies, and nonprofits including ABB, I-Cubed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Weather Service, and Agile Sciences. They join seventy-five NC State research and academic units, including the colleges of engineering, textiles, and the graduate school. More than 2,500 corporate and government employees work alongside over 1,200 faculty, staff, and post-docs, in addition to 7,000 students during the academic year.

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The official announcement of the transfer of 355 acres from Dorothea Dix Hospital land to NC State in December 1984. Shown are Jack P. Jordan, left, brother of former Lieutenant Governor Robert Jordan and chairman of the board of trustees; NC State Chancellor Bruce R.Poulton (right), who oversaw the transfer of the land; and Governor Hunt (center) just three weeks before the end of his second gubernatorial term.

Emerging Issues Forum

NC State Chancellor Bruce R. Poulton and Governor Hunt created the Forum in October 1985 to provide a catalyst for the discussion and action needed to move the United States forward in the world economy. The second conference, in February 1987, drew 1,500 people to the McKimmon Center on campus and featured keynote speaker Ross Perot. Forum speakers have included such luminaries as Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Paul Krugman, Thomas Friedman, Newt Gingrich, Hillary Clinton, Steve Forbes, Robert Rubin, Jay Rockefeller, Amory Lovins, Al Gore, and Paul Volcker.

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Cover of 1987 Emerging Issues Forum program.
Hugh Morton © 1990, North Carolina Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill
Hugh Morton © 1990, North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina Library at Chapel Hill
Jim Hunt welcomes astronomer Carl Sagan, speaker at the 1990 Emerging Issues Forum “Global Changes in the Environment: Our Common Future.” Hunt credits Sagan’s speech as his inspiration for Smart Start, North Carolina’s signature program for preparing young children for success in school.
NC State University
SAS CEO Jim Goodnight, Governor Hunt, and Steve Forbes, president and CEO of Forbes Inc., at the 2006 Emerging Issues Forum.
NC State University
Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich at the 2005 Emerging Issues Forum.
NC State University
North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt (right) and Jim Hunt.

North Carolina’s Only Four-Term Governor

After eight years out of office, Hunt ran for a third term as governor in 1992 because he feared North Carolina was falling behind other states. He called for heightened efforts to prepare young children for school.

That campaign platform became the Smart Start program, which would be used as a national model for community-based, early educational reform throughout the 1990s. Rather than an early childhood program run by government from Raleigh, Governor Hunt wanted county nonprofit organizations, churches, local businesses, schools, and day­care centers to target each community’s unique needs.

“Jim Hunt was one of those remarkable governors who constructively led the South and the nation into the twenty-first century.”
—William C. Friday, from Jim Hunt: A Biography, 2010

Smart Start

Perhaps Hunt’s most recognizable legacy, Smart Start is an early education program focused on preparing every child to succeed in school and achieve his or her full poten.tial. Taking a holistic approach recognizing that today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, the program brings together everyone in a young child’s life—families, teachers, doctors, caregivers, social workers, and many others—to ensure that every child has everything needed for healthy growth and develop.ment. Hunt designed Smart Start in a decentralized way so that public-private partners in local communities could decide how best to meet their particular needs. The program, created in 1993, remains a national model for early education initiatives.

“The secret of Smart Start is that is belongs to the local people. It’s theirs, and they own it. It’s doing great things for children.”
—Jim Hunt, from First in America, 2001
The News & Observer

The Million Acre Initiative

Near the end of his fourth term in office, Jim Hunt directed the secretary of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources to develop a plan to perma.nently protect one million acres of land in the state. This would become the “Million Acre Initiative,” a collaborative endeavor meant to accelerate the rate at which land is protected by fostering partnerships among private and public partners, promoting more open space planning, and providing information about the importance of open space protection.

The goal is to permanently protect one million acres of open spaces, including working landscapes, historic and cultural areas, floodplains, land essential for water quality protection, natural areas, species habitat, and recreational lands.

BlueRidge Kitties/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
“It is time to recognize that there is a connection between concern for wildlife and concern for human life, a connection between conservation and economic growth that can bring us the best of both.”
—Jim Hunt, Address to the National Wildlife Federation, 1984