The 7 Biggest Industries in Durham, NC

Durham, North Carolina, is an exciting place to live and work. In addition to being home to Duke University and the Research Triangle Park, it is an international hub for education, biotechnology, and information technology, along with other key industries in Durham like healthcare, finance and manufacturing.

With a population of over 332,680 people as of 2022, and at the heart of one of the fastest growing regions of the country (over 1 million people in the greater Research Triangle Region), there is an abundance of opportunity to be found in this booming city.

Several key factors have played a crucial role in Durham’s economic success. Firstly, the presence of renowned research institutions has provided a strong foundation for innovation and technological advancements. Institutions such as Duke University and North Carolina Central University contribute significantly to the city’s intellectual capital and foster collaboration between academia and industry.

Furthermore, Durham benefits from a highly skilled and educated workforce. The area’s many prestigious universities and colleges produce a steady stream of talented graduates, ready to contribute to the local workforce. This talent pool attracts businesses seeking skilled professionals and drives economic growth in knowledge-intensive industries.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the top Durham industries and how they play a role in driving the local economy and supporting the resident’s high quality of life!


Top Durham Industries: A Closer Look


1. Healthcare

The healthcare industry is one of the biggest industries in Durham, with over 300 healthcare facilities and medical practices in the region including:

  • Duke University Hospital, Duke Health, and Duke School of Medicine
  • Duke Regional Hospital
  • WakeMed Health and Hospital
  • University of North Carolina Hospital and School of Medicine
  • Emerge Ortho

Durham boasts a robust healthcare landscape, with healthcare organizations making significant contributions to the city’s economy and the well-being of its residents. One prominent institution is Duke University Health System, which includes the world-renowned Duke University Hospital. Duke Health is the largest healthcare provider in the entire state of North Carolina. With state-of-the-art facilities and a comprehensive range of medical services, Duke University Health System serves as a leading healthcare provider not only in Durham but also in the entire region.

Another significant healthcare organization in Durham is the VA Medical Center, which provides comprehensive healthcare services to veterans. The Durham VA Medical Center is recognized for its excellence in specialized care, including mental health services, rehabilitation, and research initiatives.

In addition to these institutions, Durham is home to a network of community hospitals, clinics, and specialized medical centers that collectively contribute to the city’s robust healthcare ecosystem. These organizations play a crucial role in the overall economic vitality of the region, creating a robust demand for skilled healthcare professionals across the state.

According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the healthcare and social assistance sector is one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in the state. It is projected that by 2033, North Carolina will need an additional 12,500 registered nurses and slightly more than 5,000 LPNs – illustrating the increased opportunity for healthcare employment in future years.


2. Biotechnology

Durham is a magnet for established and emerging biotech and life sciences companies. The city’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, combined with the availability of research talent and resources, has fostered an environment conducive to innovation. These startups are working on groundbreaking discoveries in areas such as gene therapy, precision medicine, and regenerative medicine, positioning Durham at the forefront of scientific advancements.

In North Carolina, there are more than 600 life science companies employing 61,000 people and generating an estimated $73 billion in economic activity.

And with more than 32,000 biomanufacturing jobs at over 108 manufacturing sites, the state of North Carolina is home to some of the biggest biopharma companies on the planet.

Durham is home to many industry leading biotechnology companies, including:

  • Biogen
  • Parexel
  • Novartis
  • IQVIA (Quintiles)

As significant contributors in Durham’s top industries, these companies are involved in research, development, and production of new drugs and medical treatments and are responsible for many of the medical innovations that have come out of the area.


Biggest Industries in Durham, NC

Image Credit: North Carolina Biotech


And the industry is projected to continue growing at a rapid rate. In 2022, for instance, Durham was selected as a location for new expansions in analytical development and business within the company Catalyst – which will bring over 200 new biotech jobs into the area in the next five years.


3. Information Technology

Durham’s reputation as a technology hub is rooted in its strategic location within the Research Triangle region, which encompasses Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill. This region is home to numerous technology companies, research institutions, and academic centers, creating a collaborative ecosystem that fuels innovation and drives technological advancements.

The Research Triangle Park (RTP), located near Durham, is one of the largest research parks in the world with over 300 companies in residence, providing over 60,000 jobs. It serves as a magnet for technology-driven companies, ranging from multinational corporations to startups. The presence of RTP has transformed Durham into a hotspot for industries such as software development, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and advanced manufacturing.

The global technology companies who have (or are planning) a significant presence in the greater Research Triangle Area include, IBM, Cisco Systems, Red Hat, Apple, Oracle and Microsoft.  These companies and the many smaller supporting tech companies and startups flourishing in the area have made RTP one of the fastest growing and prominent tech hubs in the country.

With Information technology being one of the most important industries in Durham, the city is naturally home to many startups and tech incubators, making it an ideal location for entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses.

With its collaborative spirit, supportive infrastructure, and a focus on diversity, Durham continues to attract top talent, foster groundbreaking research, and nurture entrepreneurial ventures. The city’s commitment to technology and research positions it at the forefront of innovation, driving economic growth and shaping the future of industries.


Leverage ITSco’s advanced technology solutions to help you drive growth within your local Durham business. Check out these additional resources to learn more:


4. Education

Durham boasts several esteemed universities and colleges that have garnered national and international recognition for their academic excellence and research contributions. One of the most prominent institutions in Durham is Duke University, a world-renowned private research university consistently ranked among the top in the United States. Duke University’s diverse range of programs spans disciplines such as engineering, medicine, business, law, and the arts, attracting students from around the globe – so it’s no surprise that education is one of the top industries in Durham.

Duke University employs over 38,000 people in a variety of roles, including professors, researchers, administrators, and support staff – with the Duke healthcare system alone employing over 23,000 workers.

Another notable institution is North Carolina Central University (NCCU), a historically black university known for its strong programs in law, education, and the sciences. NCCU has a rich history of producing talented graduates who contribute to various industries and sectors, further bolstering Durham’s intellectual capital.

In addition to Duke and NCCU, Durham is part of the greater Triangle community – home to three Tier-1 research universities (Duke, UNC and NC State) and a wide range of smaller, high-quality educational institutions.

The educational institutions in and around Durham make substantial contributions to the local economy, creating a symbiotic relationship between academia and industry. These institutions serve as major employers, attracting a highly skilled workforce and driving economic growth.

First and foremost, the universities and colleges in Durham contribute to the local economy through direct employment opportunities. Faculty, researchers, administrators, and support staff employed by these institutions not only contribute to the city’s economy but also foster a culture of knowledge and learning.

Moreover, the presence of educational institutions attracts students from across the country and around the world. These students, in turn, contribute to the local economy through spending on housing, dining, retail, and entertainment.

Additionally, educational institutions play a crucial role in fostering entrepreneurship and innovation. They provide resources, mentorship, and incubation programs that support student startups and entrepreneurial ventures. This entrepreneurial ecosystem generates new businesses, job opportunities, and further economic development, helping to make education one of the top industries in Durham and making it an ideal location for educators, researchers, and those interested in pursuing a career in education.


5. Finance

Durham is a financial hub in North Carolina, with many financial services companies located in the area, including banks, insurance companies, investment firms, and more.

Well known companies in the financial industries in Durham and RTP include:

  • Credit Suisse
  • NC State Employees’ Credit Union
  • Deutsche Bank
  • Fidelity Investments

In addition to traditional banks,  Durham is host to a diverse range of finance-related businesses that contribute to the city’s financial ecosystem. Durham’s vibrant startup ecosystem extends to the fintech sector, with innovative companies developing cutting-edge financial technologies. These fintech startups focus on areas such as online payments, digital banking, blockchain, and financial analytics. Their presence contributes to the overall innovation and growth of Durham’s financial services industry.

Recognized as one of the biggest industries in Durham today, the financial services and banking sector employ thousands of people and play a critical role in the city’s economic infrastructure. The presence of major financial institutions, a wide range of banking and finance-related businesses, and Durham’s influence in regional finance all contribute to the city’s overall financial stability, growth, and support for the local community. As Durham continues to evolve as a dynamic economic hub, its financial services industry will remain a key pillar of its success and prosperity.


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6. Manufacturing

North Carolina in general, and Durham in particular have a strong manufacturing base, with many companies producing a wide variety of products and services.

Durham is home to a diverse range of manufacturing companies and industries that play a pivotal role in the city’s economy and make it one of the most important industries in Durham today. The manufacturing sector in Durham spans various industries, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, electronics, textiles, and more.

The pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, in particular, have a strong presence in Durham. Several leading pharmaceutical companies have manufacturing facilities in the city, producing life-saving medications and contributing to advancements in healthcare. Additionally, Durham’s biotechnology industry is at the forefront of developing innovative therapies and diagnostic tools.

The electronics sector is another significant contributor to Durham’s manufacturing landscape. Companies specializing in the production of electronic components, equipment, and systems have established operations in the city, catering to a wide range of industries such as telecommunications, automotive, and consumer electronics.

Moreover, Durham’s manufacturing sector includes textile companies that produce fabrics, apparel, and other textile products. While the textile industry has undergone significant transformations, Durham’s manufacturing landscape has adapted to incorporate modern technologies and sustainable practices.

Top manufacturing companies in North Carolina include:

  • IBM
  • Bell and Howel
  • GE-Hitachi
  • Pfizer
  • Goodyear
  • Siemens

The manufacturing and engineering sectors in Durham have a significant impact on job creation and economic growth. These industries provide employment opportunities for a diverse range of professionals, including skilled workers, engineers, researchers, technicians, and management personnel.


7. Arts, Culture and Entertainment

Durham, North Carolina, is not only known for its thriving industries and academic institutions but also for its rich arts, culture, and entertainment scene.

Durham is a hub for creative industries, fostering a vibrant community of artists, designers, writers, and performers. The city is home to numerous art galleries, studios, and performance spaces that showcase the diverse talents and artistic expressions of local and international artists.

The arts and culture sector in Durham has a significant economic impact on the city. Beyond its intrinsic value, arts and culture contribute to job creation, tourism, and overall economic development.

Cultural events, festivals, and performances attract visitors from near and far, stimulating the local economy through spending on accommodations, dining, shopping, and transportation. The influx of tourists generates revenue for local businesses, supports jobs in the hospitality industry, and enhances the city’s reputation as a cultural destination.

Moreover, the creative industries in Durham contribute to job creation and entrepreneurship. Artists, designers, and performers find opportunities to showcase their work, collaborate with other professionals, and contribute to the local creative economy. This, in turn, leads to the creation of supporting businesses, such as art galleries, music venues, and design studios.

The presence of a vibrant arts and culture scene also enhances the overall quality of life in Durham. It fosters a sense of community, encourages civic engagement, and contributes to social cohesion. The availability of cultural amenities and artistic experiences enriches residents’ lives, making Durham an attractive place to live, work, and visit – and making Arts, Culture and Entertainment one of the most important industries in Durham.


Why Leaders in Durham’s Top Industries Choose ITSco

We are proud to be part of Durham’s incredible economic success story and look forward to an exciting future supporting the technology needs of some of the most important industries in Durham.

For over 25 years, our IT company has helped businesses in Durham and RTP maintain their competitive edge by providing world-class IT services at local North Carolina rates. Our offerings include:


Durham Industries


At ITSco, we understand that IT isn’t a one size fits all solution, which is why we take the time to understand your business and develop strategies that align perfectly with your goals and objectives. This personalized approach ensures that clients receive the services and support needed to succeed.



We can help your IT operations run more efficiently – improving productivity and letting you focus on growth.  Get in touch with us now to find out more!

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