When people talk about Durham, our entrepreneurs are often one of the first things they mention. How did we get here?

Right now is one chapter in a long story of entrepreneurship in Durham. It’s something that’s been a rich part of Durham’s history forever. … People started growing tobacco here, and then it turned out that it smoked really well, and that grew into an unbelievable empire. Move forward 100 years and you have the emergence ofBlack Wall Street, another 85 years later you get Research Triangle Park, and then another few decades later you have American Underground.

Everybody’s trying to get attention right now around entrepreneurs in their city, and part of what we love about this city is that none of that is manufactured. If the economy takes a nosedive, or if something else pops up that’s the next big thing, Durham will continue to be an entrepreneurial town. It is our industry.

What is it that’s drawing businesses to choose Durham, and to stay here?

When entrepreneurs come into Durham, they love the energy that’s here. The energy of great food, great culture, a tech scene that’s booming – all those different pieces they can see and experience that they’re not expecting. Because when you’re flying across country into a relatively small Southern city, most people’s expectations aren’t to see all that here. We have a dynamic environment that’s attracting national attention.

What’s behind the tech explosion here? How did that happen?

While the explosion is recent, the foundational pieces of that have been in the offing for a while. Case in point: Bronto Software, which was just acquired for about $200 million, started at the American Tobacco Campus in the mid-2000s. Everybody sees this story of “wow, that’s tons of money” – well, that story has been in the works for 10 years. They were built in Durham, they were grown in Durham with support from Durham entities, and now Bronto has this incredible story.