With the loss of Progress Energy and RBC downtown, we pondered the implications of 'one less CEO downtown.' Today Red Hat announced their intention to take over the Progress energy building, only slightly consoling as simultaneously Progress announced as many as 1,000 jobs would be leaving the Raleigh economy. Surely, most of those jobs are knowledge workers and executives of the highest level. For Red Hat, downtown is something that will fit their culture nicely. The ill conceived antithesis Campus may have brought research businesses to partner with NC State, but it did it in such an automobile-based, suburban experience that it was the opposite of what a knowledge worker desired in a workplace.
The News and Observer quoted city manager Russell Allen: "Their employees are very different than Progress employees and I think that will be good for the downtown. I think that will drive some demand for things in the downtown, whether it's residential or perhaps even more transient things like hotels." Mr Allen is precisely right. Red Hat is international with most of its users spread across the world outside of the southeast- the opposite of Progress Energy. Red Hat also promotes community, at least amongst its users, emphatically, with positions inside the company dedicated solely to fostering that community. While Raleigh's downtown may not be filled with enterprise Linux users, we can hope that Red Hat feels welcome in its new home and ingratiated by that welcome to bring some of that energy spent on its virtual communities to its new physical one.
In conjunction with this news, the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce has hired New Kind, the same cerebral marketing group behind CAM Raleigh's identity. The chamber and New Kind both feel that 'open' as a methodology for business is the perfect marriage for downtown Raleigh. David Burney, CEO of New Kind, says businesses have realized that "being open creates a competitive advantage. Those companies are looking for the smartest and most creative people available to work for them." Soit isn't that the chamber is going after companies built on open-source products like Red Hat - it's that they are going after companies that work in that transparent, communicative fashion familiar to the newest crop of graduates who were born with the internet.
Open source or not, for all of the technology in the area, there is so little of it downtown beyond small web shops. Any successful effort to bring more of that kind of business downtown will be rewarded with more urban residents doing more urban work, an authenticity that the city hasn't known in almost 40 years.