Faculty & Student Research and Engagement (Lowe)
Ever wonder what projects you could be working on as a DCRP student? We asked a couple of Nichola Lowe's students.
Faculty and students at DCRP carry out an extensive body of research and engage in a variety of projects working with local communities and clients. Research is carried out at our own research centers as well as through partnerships with academic, governmental, business, and non-profit organizations. Students in the department are also active participants in community-based planning workshop courses in which they engage directly with local community groups. In addition to faculty and doctoral research projects, Master’s students also engage in research and engagement through their Master’s Projects.
Faculty focus: Dr. Nichola Lowe
Dr. Lowe's research focuses primarily on local economic development and adjustment in the North American context. She is especially interested in the local support systems that enable firms to engage in innovative activities, particularly during periods of economic volatility. A central concern of her work is the accountability of business assistance and workforce development programs and supports to the larger host community. Her research not only raises questions about the impact of local support systems on firm performance and survivability, but the degree to which supporting actors—both public and private—can shape the upgrading and upskilling path of local firms in ways that reflect and reinforce higher-order developmental goals and community values.
She has examined these processes through in-depth case studies of both traditional manufacturing and knowledge-based industries. For a recent project on life sciences, she examined the early origins of the U.S. biotechnology industry and the influence that municipal level biosafety ordinances played in the intensity of regional entrepreneurship. She has also studied North Carolina’s life science workforce development initiative and specifically the state’s novel efforts to influence local hiring practices so as to create jobs in biopharmaceuticals for displaced textile, tobacco-processing and microelectronics workers. This study examines the mediating role of the state’s community college system and increasing use of a sectoral-based strategy for encouraging greater skills transference between the state’s traditional and emerging industrial base.
As a lawyer and a DCRP master’s student specializing in economic development, I was looking for ways to bring these two fields together. With Dr. Lowe’s guidance, I focused on local government use of incentives, with a special interest in the constitutionality of local hiring provisions as a condition of an incentive award. Anecdotal evidence and preliminary survey findings suggest that local governments in North Carolina are reluctant to consider adoption of a local hiring policy due to concerns that such policies are illegal. The goal of my research was to provide some clarity in this bewildering area of law by delineating for local officials what they are permitted to do and by identifying the degree of legal risk their actions might entail.
Dr. Lowe provided the opportunity for me to incorporate this topic into my course of study in a number of ways. Incentives were the focus of both an independent study and my MP. Additionally, as part of the economic development workshop taught by Dr. Lowe, I worked with the director of the Economic Development Commission in Warren County to lay the groundwork for a new incentive policy for the county; an effort I have continued after graduation. It has been tremendously rewarding to draw on my legal and economic development skills to assist local officials in such a tangible way.