After growing up in Kansas City, then living in Los Angeles for 16 years, some of the Triangle came as expected, while some of it was quite a surprise.
- Professional Opportunity – When I joined O3 Creative, I saw the vision Brian Onorio had laid out for a marketing agency. It was certainly a gamble to move my family across the country to a new town, and a new agency with 12 people crammed into a small office, but I never saw it as a risk. As a digital agency, we knew where we were headed and now as Walk West, we are still on a similar trajectory. We’ve grown in every possible way–headcount, revenue, service offering, level of talent, type of client, and industries served. We stand now with 32 gifted people in a new office on NC State’s Centennial Campus, our third space in two years.
- Business Opportunity – I’ve seen a passion for entrepreneurship and innovation that at least equals everywhere else I’ve been–Silicon Beach in LA and Silicon Prairie in KC (yes, that’s what they call it). The start-up community and larger established companies have a much tighter relationship here than I’ve seen in other towns. The area continues to earn accolades as a top place to do business and grow your career. And Forbes agrees with me too. If you haven’t heard, Walk West is also rolling out a start-up of its own with a new SaaS product and Walk West/O3 Creative founder, Brian Onorio, at the helm. Check out Proposa, soon to be the best way to create and manage digital proposals.
- Food & Drink – After growing up in Kansas City, I’m still confused by North Carolina barbecue. I’m not sure the state has realized you can cook things other than pork, and I don’t have the same concept of bbq sauce as the folks here, but it’s still pretty good stuff. Plus, the Southern food is awesome and oddly, both Venezuelan and Laotian cuisine have strong representation with Guasaca and Bida Manda, respectively. Brewery Bhavana was also just named a top place to eat in the world.
- Friendly People – When someone starts talking to you in an elevator, at the gas station, or a grocery store in North Carolina, it is not a distraction for someone else to rob you. It took me quite a while to get used to strangers starting conversations and me not looking around to see who was going to steal my car. People here are just that friendly. It’s nice and dramatically different than any big city I’ve spent time in.
- Seasons – Raleigh is the best of all worlds. You get a sampler plate of the four seasons, but never enough snow, or rain, or cold to make you wish you’d moved further south. It does get pretty darn hot and humid in the summer, but there are lots of beautiful beaches within a two-hour drive.
- Traffic – If you live and work in Raleigh, everywhere else in Raleigh is a 10-minute drive. Despite what the natives think, there is no actual traffic in Raleigh, unless there is a festival downtown (and there is always a festival downtown), it rains, or you’re headed to Durham or Chapel Hill. The connection between the three main towns of the Triangle is 40 (not the 40 as I keep calling it from my years in LA), and it does have some serious traffic. So one highway is bad, and that’s pretty good in comparison to places like LA, or even Austin, where growth and sprawl have jammed up the whole city.
- Sports – For college basketball, I’m a Jayhawk in the middle of Tarheel/Wolfpack/Blue Devil country which makes it interesting for my daughter at her school’s College Colors Day. For the rest of the sports year, I’ve seen fantastic college football (one game during a hurricane) as well as NHL hockey with the Hurricanes. I haven’t been to a Durham Bulls game, but it’s on the list for this summer. Also, there are a ton of fantastic golf courses around the Triangle, and legendary Pinehurst is a just an hour drive.
- Kids – Our yard in Manhattan Beach was artificial turf and the size of a typical living room in North Carolina, and our driveway was shorter than the length of any car in production. That meant there wasn’t much room for our kids to play or ride bikes. Now, our backyard looks like an amusement park and the kids love being outside with the space to do whatever they want. There are great schools, and places like Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh and the Museum of Life Science in Durham are pretty amazing spots for kids.
- The Airport – RDU is the easiest airport to navigate I’ve ever encountered. There’s not as many directs as you’d like but they do fly to Paris and London, and you can get to just about anywhere else with a connection out of CLT or ATL. I’ve never spent more than five minutes in the TSA PreCheck line and only seen the regular line overflow during the holidays. You can park affordably right at the terminal (no shuttle bus needed) and I’ve never encountered much traffic in or out of the airport loop.
- The Future – I really enjoy the feeling of optimism that everyone in Raleigh and Durham (both sets of residents hate the hyphenate) seems to share. There is a sense here that today is great, but tomorrow is going to be better. I hear this sentiment in the business community, at our daughter’s school, and from longtime residents and the just relocated alike. When the whole community feels like that, it makes for a truly fantastic place to live.
Kansas City was a wonderful place to grow up, and Manhattan Beach is one of my favorite places on earth, but Raleigh has been the right move for us. It’s a great area with lots of opportunities personally and professionally, and the area has yet to reach its full potential.