Mark Washburn

Boredom takes flight in Raleigh

In one of those statistical discoveries done by someone who never leaves their desk in some distant land, Raleigh has been ranked the No. 1 hotbed for tech start-ups outside Silicon Valley.

No, not just No. 1 in Wake County – No. 1 in the nation.

How, you might ask, does Raleigh, which is a suburb of Cary, outpace other cerebral fountainheads such as Boston, Austin and Zebulon, where the molten magma of creativity bubbles with such dynamic gusto?

Because, says the blog written for, a lot of patent applications pour in from its ZIP codes, and its legions of engineering types work cheap.

These kinds of studies are always based on obscure data collected by organizations without enough to do, such as the U.S. government, and crunched by analysts desperate for insights into emerging sectors of the economy, such as storage-unit-renting Americans.

You might remember that a few years back, Raleigh was rated one of the free world’s manliest cities. Among the performance prongs in the analysis was the number of pickup trucks registered in the city.

It had a gazillion of them per capita, but they weren’t the manly-man kind with gun racks in the cab and dead deer piled atop the hood. Turned out the state highways department registered all its pickups cast unto 100 counties at its headquarters in Raleigh, skewing results.

Charlotte sometimes benefits from similar statistical quirks. We are currently ranked the nation’s leader in building trolleys no one wants to ride that are in proximity to fancy hotel bars that figure out your tip and present it as a “service charge.”

Brag on it while you’ve got it. These things are ephemeral – next week it could be Las Vegas, Milwaukee or Burgaw.

No, the sad truth is that Raleigh outpaces the inventive surge elsewhere because there is simply nothing else to do.

You would think a city with an outstanding research university, a scenic statehouse and a top-notch penitentiary would have something in the way of nightlife. You’d be wrong.

Ready to blow off a little steam on a Saturday night, Raleighiteans are faced with the eternal quandary: Should we go hang out at the Char-Grill on Hillsborough Street or invent a gizmo that hands you a towel as you step out of the shower?

A big night in Raleigh is driving out to a cow pasture on the edge of town to watch professional Canadians skate around with curved sticks and beat each other up. It’s that or walking around the Cary mall.

Raleigh reaches its apogee of creativity this time of year. It’s called the annual gathering of the legislature, and here great minds are bent to solve the dilemmas of the age.

They’ve already invented a way to put toll lanes on roads that residents have already paid for. They should patent that one, thus cementing the city’s reputation.

Washburn: 704-358-5007;

Twitter: @WashburnChObs