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Commerce Secretary joins state’s metropolitan regions in joint economic development outreach initiative

Oct. 22, 2013 – North Carolina Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker is working with presidents of the state’s three urban regional development partnerships in a concerted push to promote North Carolina to national location advisors and business media. Their initial plans call for visits with site-selection consultants and journalists in New York City in mid-November.

“It’s exciting to see our largest economic regions coming together, and I’m eager to collaborate in their efforts,” Secretary Decker said. Plans call for her personal participation with the presidents of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, Piedmont Triad Partnership and Research Triangle Regional Partnership in a series of outreach events in coming months. The four will promote business opportunities in North Carolina, specifically how economic assets along the “crescent” that connects Charlotte, the Triad and Raleigh-Durham can support the needs of growing, cutting-edge firms. “The high-wage jobs and high-dollar investments that power our major metro areas are the fuel for North Carolina’s overall economic revival – moving the needle for us in the near-term as we reconsider the longer-range infrastructure and workforce needs of our state,” Decker said.

The initiative marks the first time the three regional partnerships have joined forces to cross-sell assets, share resources and speak with a single voice for the state’s urban centers. “As state government reorganizes its programs and re-focuses resources, the timing was ideal for the urban regions to step forward and provide visible leadership,” said David Powell, president and CEO of the Piedmont Triad Partnership, based in Greensboro. The three business-driven organizations collectively have over six decades of corporate recruitment experience, a leadership corps that includes top executives from some of the state’s largest employers and financial resources raised from a long roster of private donors. “By coming together and working with Secretary Decker, we make a compelling statement about North Carolina’s ability to compete for – and win – game-changing projects,” Powell said.

Taken together, the three regions encompass about 65 percent of the state’s total population. In fact, one of three new residents arriving in North Carolina between 2000 and 2010 live in either Wake County and Mecklenburg County, according to the North Carolina DataNet. Measured in economic power, North Carolina largest cities are formidable. Wake County’s median worker earnings in 2011 topped $84,550, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce, a figure that was more than three times greater than that earned by the average employee statewide. “Economically, we have returned to the age of city-states,” said Charles Hayes, president and CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership. “High concentrations of people and businesses, along with urban amenities such as commercial airports and research universities, are today the simplest predictors of job-growth and prosperity,” he said.

Basic reforms to North Carolina’s economic development structure and strategy during the past year may have prompted some site-selection consultants to take a wait-and-see approach to bringing clients and projects to the Tar Heel State. “It’s our job to ensure that site advisors and corporate decision makers are well aware of the state’s diverse assets,” said Ronnie Bryant, president and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership. “We also want there to be no question that we will do everything possible on the local, regional and state levels to help businesses succeed in North Carolina.” Bryant says sitting down face-to-face with key site-selection professionals and business journalists is the most effective strategy for conveying North Carolina’s brand message around the world. “And that message is, that we’re still the best state in the country for business — period,” Bryant said.

Bryant, Decker, Hayes and Powell will hold the first of their consultant and media meetings in New York City on November 14, 2013.

Kent Holliday, a New York City-based location advisor with Cresa Consulting Services & Portfolio Strategies, says face-to-face outreach is the ideal way economic developers can promote their communities, regions and states. “For me, getting together with people is the best way for them to deliver their message,” says Holliday, who works primarily with technology companies seeking business locations. His clients lean toward urban locations because that’s where most technology workers prefer to be. “They come from cities and like urban lifestyles: density, cultural institutions, diversity, and a high level of energy,” he says. Holliday, who has worked in real estate planning since 2000, says it is uncommon for a state and all of its major cities to work together on focused outreach. “Usually it’s one or the other,” he says. “This kind of approach is unique.”

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