N.C. tech group has new chief

The N.C. Technology Association has hired a new president, Brooks Raiford, who has a varied background in business, government and the nonprofit arena.

The trade group lobbies on behalf of the state's tech industry, a major employment base and economic engine.

Its agenda has included increasing technology in schools and leveraging the defense industry's presence to generate more jobs.

The organization announced Monday that Raiford will start Oct. 6. He succeeds Peter Hermann, who resigned in June after just five months on the job. The previous top executive was Joan P.H. Myers, who departed in August 2007 after seven years with the trade group.

For the past three years Raiford, 40, has been regional director of business development for Balfour Beatty Construction in Raleigh.

He's a former president of Leadership North Carolina, a nonprofit organization focused on boosting knowledge of public policy issues among future and current community and business leaders.

Raiford was also a policy aide to former Gov. Jim Hunt, where his portfolio included the N.C. Information Highway and related technology issues.

“He has experienced a lot of things in a few years that make him a very strong, very aggressive, very results-oriented individual,” said David Jones, vice chairman of NCTA's board.

“Someone who is strictly a technologist is not necessarily going to be the best person to have an executive leadership role for an organization like NCTA,” Jones said. “But he has to have a strong appreciation for technology and the importance of technology. ... I'm very confident (Raiford) has that.”

NCTA, which is celebrating its 15th year, recently adopted a new mission statement: “Making North Carolina #1 in Technology and Technology #1 in North Carolina.”

In an interview, Raiford, a Greensboro native, made the following points:

Goals: He plans to reach out to members to assess what they want from NCTA. Raiford also wants to refine NCTA's role “so that we don't overlap what other groups are doing, but instead complement what other groups are doing.”

Membership: Raiford wants to broaden the organization's base. NCTA has about 410 members – up from 370 last year. It already has a few members, such as Progress Energy and Duke Power, that aren't technology companies but use technology to deliver services. That would include finding ways to serve chief information officers of non-tech businesses.

NCTA's profile: Raiford wants to “take the reputation and standing that NCTA has ... and build its brand. There is a general feeling that it is a fairly well-kept secret.”

On his commitment: “It's my state. It's very personal to me. It's where I've grown up. My children will be educated here. My parents are retired here. So I'm about as rooted as one can be.”