Nichola J. Lowe

Professor of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapter Member: North Carolina SSN
Areas of Expertise:

Connect with Nichola

About Nichola

Lowe’s work focuses on the institutional arrangements that lead to more inclusive forms of economic development and specifically, the role that practitioners can play in aligning growth and equity goals. She conducts research in three related areas of economic development. First, she studies workforce intermediaries and the strategies of skill reinterpretation they use to engage businesses in a negotiated process around skill. Second, she focuses on immigrant construction workers and the innovative strategies they and their allies devise to make their contributions to industry upgrading and upskilling more visible and valued. Third, she examines smart approaches to state and local economic development. Combined, this work unpacks the processes and practices that contribute to more equitable and inclusive forms of regional economic development and labor market adjustment.

She has worked on projects for the International Labour Organization, Inter-American Development Bank, Bank of the Northeast Brazil, Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, the Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise, the North Carolina Council for Entrepreneurial Development and the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology.

In the News

"Does Doling Out Economic Incentives Create Jobs? A UNC Study Says No," Nichola J. Lowe (with T. William Lester and Mary Donegan), The News & Observer, December 26, 2018.
Nichola J. Lowe quoted by David Adler, "North Carolina’s Promising Experiment" City Journal, March 29, 2018.
"To Thwart HB2 Provision, NC Governments Could Insource Services," Nichola J. Lowe, News and Observer, May 10, 2016.
Guest to discuss the Latino labor force on UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities Faculty Podcast, Nichola J. Lowe, February 22, 2016.
"The Future of Work: Encouraging Employers to Train Workers," Nichola J. Lowe, Pacific Standard Magazine, September 24, 2015.
"Rebuilding the Bridge to the Future: An Analysis of What Works for North Carolina’s Economy," Nichola J. Lowe (with William T. Lester), ThinkNCFirst, July 2015.
"Stoking our Entrepreneurial Economy," Nichola J. Lowe (with Maryann Feldman), News and Observer, February 7, 2015.
"How Finance Gutted Manufacturing," Nichola J. Lowe, Boston Review, April 6, 2014.
Guest to discuss how mergers of large pharmaceutical corporations like Glaxo and Burroughs Wellcome impact highly skilled workers on Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University, Nichola J. Lowe, November 29, 2012.


"Who Works in a Working Region? Inclusive Innovation in the New Manufacturing Economy" (with Laura Wolf-Powers). Regional Studies (forthcoming).

Compares U.S. states that specialize in biopharmaceuticals to understand who participates in a so-called working region. While some state policy-makers have privileged scientific and design occupations at the expense of the production workforce, regional actors in North Carolina have increased employment in design and development while growing their biopharmaceutical production base, aligning innovation and equity goals in the process.

"Power through Problem Solving: Latino Immigrants and the Inconsistencies of Economic Restructuring" Population, Space and Place (forthcoming).

Finds intensified interdependence between Latino immigrant workers and their native-born supervisors and co-workers in a multi-year study of construction workers in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. Latino workers respond to challenges of restructuring in their daily work with innovative and lasting solutions that their native-born supervisors and co-workers have learned to value, and have ultimately stepped in as influential allies.

"Reskilling Urban Manufacturing: Workforce Solutions from the inside out" Metropolitics (2015).

Argues that, rather than being drive exclusively by a “college for all” mentality, policymakers should strive for an economy in which social-mobility strategies are also embedded in the workplace, activating internal structures within firms that support and reward work-based learning.

"From Skills Mismatch to Reinterpretation: Challenges and Solutions for Manufacturing Worker Retention and Recruitment" in Handbook of Manufacturing Industries in the World Economy, edited by John R. Bryson, Jennifer Clark, and Vida Vanchan (Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd., 2015), 474-488.

Discusses challenges posed by changes in American manufacturing, such as educational requirements, and how skill, and more specifically changing perceptions of skill, might affect manufacturing worker recruitment, retention, and mobility.

"The Politics of Skill: Rethinking the Value of "Low-Skilled" Immigrant Workers," (with Natasha Iskander), American Immigration Council , 2012.

Challenges the assumption that skill is primarily derived from formal schooling and classroom education by focusing on the tacit skills of newly-arrived Latino immigrant workers continue to innovate new construction techniques and carve new pathways for training immigrant co-workers and new labor market entrants.