FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) on Thursday, Dec. 17, completed a four-week series of eight regional roundtables held virtually across the state and focused on the challenges and opportunities businesses and economic developers face in each region.
Series panels included 16 business leaders, four local chamber representatives and nine local economic developers, as well as EDPNC’s chief executive officer, Christopher Chung, vice president of global business services, John Loyack, and the EDPNC existing industry expansions manager serving the region.
The series’ goal was to highlight stories of resilience in 2020, as well as make businesses aware of how the EDPNC can support them. In many ways, the pandemic has forever altered the way North Carolinians do business ― which makes resources the EDPNC and others provide even more valuable in the coming year. With 562 attendees participating in the webinars, the EDPNC is hopeful its goal was met.
The series’ second half focused on the Piedmont-Triad, Southwest, Northwest and Western regions of the state. In these regions, the EDPNC connected local businesses to potential new partners, grant opportunities and workforce development resources ― ultimately helping some expand and grow despite the pandemic. Sometimes you just need someone to connect the dots.
“Economic development is a team sport, and never more so than [in] 2020,” said Brent Christensen, president and CEO of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce. “[EDPNC] being a matchmaker was a great asset to our community to be able to get the resources needed.”
At the Piedmont-Triad roundtable, for example, Chris Morris, vice president of Custom Contract Furnishings (CCF) in High Point, discussed how he pivoted production during the pandemic to produce medical gowns ― a move that helped CCF avoid layoffs and hire 60 more people.
Tracy Dellinger, the EDPNC existing industry expansions manager for the region, connected Morris to critical partners including the North Carolina Procurement Technical Assistance Center, which helped CCF navigate how to bid on a federal government contract. “Tracy’s been a blessing. It’s that simple. We received so much valuable information,” he said.
Although economic developers participating in the final four regional roundtables recognized tourism, the aviation industry, and foreign direct investment have suffered this year, they remained optimistic about the future.
Laura Foor, vice president of external affairs and advocacy for the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance, noted that although project activity in her region has slowed overall since the start of the pandemic, “the fundamentals that make Charlotte a great place to be still remain, and that’s what’s going to see us through and put us in a favorable position as we come out of the pandemic.”
She highlighted the July announcement by Centene Corp., a provider of managed care services for public and private health plans, which promises to bring more than 3,200 jobs and $1 billion in investment to the area. “Opportunities are emerging,” she said. “So, while it has definitely been a very hard year, there have definitely been bright spots.”
Loren Hill, president of the High Point Economic Development Corporation, agreed. “The client activity has been impressive,” he said. “Local companies are indeed expanding, growing, making plans for the future, and new companies have announced here, and we have more in line to hopefully come our way.”
Despite how hard the tourism industry has been hit, panelists from the state’s Northwest and Western regions were similarly bullish about the future and emphasized the value of connecting with potential partners and other resources through the EDPNC.
“It’s in the DNA of folks in Northwest North Carolina to plow through,” said David Jackson, president and CEO of the Boone Area Chamber of Commerce. The region has made it through economic downturns before. “I think that because of that toughness, we are quick to partner with each other. That’s one of the silver linings that I’ve seen out of this pandemic response — people are far more willing to reach across borders,” Jackson said.
Zane Adams, co-CEO and chief marketing officer of Buchi, a kombucha beverage producer in Marshall, shared during the Western roundtable how pivotal the EDPNC and its partners have been to its business growth.
“When we started the company 12 years ago, we started out as a really small brewery in a house in downtown Asheville, and we relocated to Madison [County], Marshall… thanks, in part, to the services from the group here… in providing the access and what I call soft power to be able to get some building reuse grants and kick start the business and scale it.”
In 2021, EDPNC’s goal is to help more businesses such as those that shared their stories of resilience during the statewide roundtable series. By providing free resources that meet the needs of businesses navigating a new normal, the EDPNC can continue to support economic recovery and growth in the coming year.
Only together can we move onward as one.