During this COVID-19 slowdown, the NC East Board and staff did a SWOT analysis of our “Non-Profit Organization” and “The Region” and what is most needed for both. We asked, “what would it take to thrive, moving forward in this place?”. We reached several conclusions in this process…….
Main Baskets of Focus
1. To Maximize the Existing Assets of the Region before moving on to the next new thing.
Typical economic development has a keen eye toward the “shiny new toy”. It is quite easy to ignore, minimize, fail to invest in, or simply look past one’s existing assets. From an assets inventory standpoint, we often do not even know what we do not know. To maximize the potential of our existing people, culture, natural landscape, industry, and institutions; we must become convenors and maximizers of our physical, cultural, fiscal, and intellectual assets. We must lead in directing as many of these assets as possible onto the same sheet of music. Then we must become great story tellers for these assets to the rest of the world.
2. Helping our existing industries to maximize their success is critical to our Region. Helping our existing populous to tap into ever improving opportunities is equally critical to the improvement of the Region.
Up to eighty percent (80%) of new jobs come from existing industry annually. If our local industries find themselves in a position to grow or expand, we want it to be an easy choice to do so, right here in Eastern NC.
The greatest need of nearly every Industry is recruitment and retention of top talent. In our region, a local company’s workforce can often come from 12-15 counties, and not just from the industry’s home county. NC East Alliance and STEM East have connections in multiple counties and multiple school systems. We can immediately assist employers in that search for and development of local talent. At the same time, Citizens of some of the more rural Counties can be introduced to opportunities that they might have otherwise never known existed.
But this “helping” mindset goes far beyond the education component. NC East can also recruit important suppliers and technical support operations to the region – helping to develop a stronger local supply chain. NC East Alliance can assist with advocacy efforts before regulatory and governmental agencies. We can gather partners to speak with a big voice where issues critical to the region, our citizenry, and our corporate neighbors are involved. Helping our committed corporate partners, and the individual citizens to flourish and grow, in Eastern NC, is our highest priority, and at the heart of all our efforts moving forward
How that looks
1. Workforce Development is vital for our future.
Even with high unemployment, it is hard for companies to find skilled workers that they need to maximize their potential for success. Teachers are at the tip of the spear in the meeting of local industries need for skills upgrades. There are 15,000 teachers in our region. Our staff’s strength with K-16 STEM and CTE and connections to local industry offers a unique opportunity to develop new comprehensive training programs with capabilities to focus directly on the specific needs of our local partners. At the same time, our students will be exposed to opportunities, that lie right under their noses and may not have otherwise known about.
2. There is a need for Regional Advocacy and Connectivity.
NC East will be a unifying local “voice of place” – promoting strengths, unique assets, and points of interest within our Region. We will work to create a sense of “place” as a component critical to the recruitment and retention of new talent, both native and external. We have amazing and unique assets, but the story line is often disjointed and scattered in its messaging. NC East Alliance wants to act as a convenor that brings the regional assets together to develop new training systems, new messaging content and systems, and a general environment of cooperation that brings different communities, entities and assets together in order to better tell the full Eastern NC story to the world. We have many communities in the East. They are all different, and that is a good thing. With a cohesive voice we begin to tell the story, that has many chapters. A story that paints a picture of a great place to visit, to live, to work, to play….that is how you start to become a place whereby it is easy to attract and retain talent. NC East Alliance wants to become that stronger voice to the outside world for everyone in Eastern NC.
3. There is need for focused Recruitment and Innovating Locally in Eastern NC.
NC East Alliance will no longer focus on recruiting large employers from outside of our region. There are plenty of other economic development entities already hunting those elephants. In fact, we have observed the disruptive nature of the introduction of such operations into an already highly competitive workforce marketplace. We are squarely aimed at helping to solve the current workforce issues and not magnify them.
Instead, NC East is uniquely positioned to pursue “specific need” recruitment and homegrown innovation connectivity. This can fall into several baskets……
Ultimately, NC East is refocusing its operations. We are building a model of what the future of economic development should look like for Eastern NC. We intend to work specifically with the talent that we have, the economic landscape that we find ourselves in, while aiming toward the economic landscape that we hope to see in the future. Any worthwhile venture starts with assessing the assets that one might have work with. For us, that assessment produced an inventory of assets that are totally unique to us. And yet, our past economic development efforts looked like everyone else’s. This new effort is intended to assess, engage, and connect the positive assets of our unique and vibrant Region. Once that assessment is complete, we will go about the work of making the most of what we have. We will build teams, at every turn, in order help overcome obstacles, mitigate the negatives, and maximize the positives. All of this is an effort to set the stage to grow and flourish together. Eastern NC is not chasing anyone else. We are setting out to maximize what and who is here and become the absolute best that we can be. We here to help others bloom where they are planted.
Our County and other Economic Development partners will see NC East Alliance become more visible in the Region and convening critical conversations. Our two primary regional partners, ECU and Vidant want NC East Alliance to support their activities in their 29 county regional footprints. Consequently, we will work with any economic development entity, governmental agency, institution, and industry or education partners in this 29 County footprint for the betterment of Eastern NC. The NC East Board approved staff to begin renewed fundraising activities effective today. In turn, we look forward to supporting all or our partners throughout Eastern NC, as we welcome in a rising tide that lifts all boats.