This morning, the North Carolina Chamber Foundation released its new study on fostering economic development in North Carolina’s nonurban communities. The study, Spreading Economic Opportunity Across North Carolina, was conducted over the previous six months and utilized extensive research and first-hand feedback from local leaders across the state to reach its conclusions. The final report offers a broad set of recommendations for North Carolina’s leaders to encourage public-private cooperative efforts that will capitalize on existing opportunities and create new ways to spur economic development in all corners of the state.
As many of you know, while North Carolina’s economy and population have both seen explosive growth in recent years, new economic growth opportunities exist at an uneven rate throughout many of our communities. As the report indicates, during the previous 12 months many North Carolina counties have lost jobs, and over the next 25 years the working-age population of many of our nonurban communities is projected to continue shrinking as new job seekers migrate to economic centers that have more readily available career opportunities. These trends beg the question: as North Carolina continues to expand exponentially, can we be satisfied with overall growth if that growth is only concentrated in certain areas?
The new report from the Foundation answers this question with a resounding “no.” To combat these trends, the Spreading Opportunity Across North Carolina report focuses on priorities – aligned around the four “Pillars of a Secure Future” reinforcing the Foundation’s strategic growth plan, North Carolina Vision 2030 – that will help address the needs of our state’s nonurban communities while allowing its economic centers to continue to thrive. Chief among these priorities are recommendations to improve workforce training in nonurban communities, align local leaders around shared economic development goals, create regional strategies that focus business recruitment and economic development around existing industries, improve infrastructure to connect more nonurban communities with urban centers, and get job creators like you playing a more active role in facilitating these strategies.
Every North Carolina community is unique, and there is no single silver-bullet, fix-all solution to the challenge of comprehensive economic development in North Carolina. But the NC Chamber and NC Chamber Foundation recognize that the uniqueness of our individual communities is truly one of our state’s greatest competitive advantages in the global jobs race. We are confident that, with these recommendations providing a framework for discussion, we can work together over the coming years and decades to turn the unique strengths of our communities into opportunities to continue securing our competitive statewide future. The time to act is now.
We encourage you to read over the report. In the coming days we will be soliciting feedback from you, and we look forward to working together to turn these recommendations into tangible results for North Carolina.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber