Record Turnout at Pinehurst Conference
NCEDA’s Spring Conference (formerly the MidWinter Conference) drew almost 350 attendees to the historic Pinehurst Resort, where economic and workforce development leaders shared expertise around this year’s theme of “Tomorrow’s Workforce Today: Creativity, Collaboration and Human Capital.” Dominion Energy was the event’s presenting sponsor.
“In an era of record-low unemployment rates and companies striving to recruit and retain top talent, these issues are front and center in the minds of NCEDA members as we grow good jobs, attract new investment, and bring economic diversification and resiliency to our communities,” said Duke Energy’s John Nelms, co-chair of the 2019 Spring Conference Committee. His sentiments were echoed by co-chair Alan Wood, president of Burke Development, Inc. “Whether you’re in a rural community like mine, a major metro area or somewhere in between, talent, labor and skills are challenges we all face,” Wood said. “Making the most of our human resources is a goal for every county, every region and every company.”
Youth apprenticeship programs are a promising solution for companies, communities and rising members of North Carolina’s workforce. “Youth apprenticeships offer bright young students prospects for an education as well as careers with economic mobility,” said Maureen Little, Vice President for Economic Development at the North Carolina Community College System, who facilitated a panel discussion on the state’s youth apprenticeship program. “One of the biggest challenges we face in growing youth apprenticeships is dispelling myths about them,” said Dr. Elizabeth Standafer, Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator at the NC Community College System. “Within six months at a company, high school students are contributing to the bottom line,” she said. Among the benefits employers derive is added loyalty and reduced turnover, explained Chris Harrington, Director of Operations & General Manager at Elastic Therapy Inc. in Asheboro. The company is a leader in Apprenticeship Randolph, a partnership that connects high school juniors and seniors with manufacturing career paths. “Apprentices recognize that [employers] have made an investment in them, so they are going to stay there for a longer period of time,” Harrington said. The program currently has 28 youth apprentices working throughout Randolph County, with 46 more expected to come on board this summer, explained Stacey Miller, Pathways Activities Coordinator at Randolph Community College.
The NC Department of Commerce’s legislative priorities this year align well with those of NCEDA, reported George Sherrill, chief of staff at the Department. Governor Cooper’s budget request for the coming two years includes funding for North Carolina’s JobReady Program, which offers grants for work-based learning and worker upskilling. It also seeks $5 million for Commerce’s Rural Ready Sites program, a competitive process communities can engage for product development. The Department is supporting Regional Advanced Manufacturing Pipeline (“RAMP-East”), which seeks to boost workforce capacity in several Eastern North Carolina counties. Eight community colleges are collaborating in the venture. “We want to develop a model that we know we can replicate in other rural areas,” Sherrill said.
NCEDA Government Relations Counsel Dave Horne encouraged members to engage with legislators in advancing the organization’s advocacy goals. “To build something, you need tools,” said Horne, a partner at Raleigh’s Smith Anderson Law Firm. “To have those tools, you need to build relationships with legislators.” Horne encouraged members to participate in NCEDA’s Legislative Breakfast on April 16 in Raleigh and otherwise be prepared to contact lawmakers to express support for improvements to the state economic development policies and programs. “The Legislature can make your job more difficult or it can enhance your prospects for success,” Horne said.
The organization recognized its Members Emeritus with special plaques and a standing ovation. On hand to receive the honor were Herb Crenshaw, Bob Leak Sr., Bonnie Renfrow, Linda Weiner and Richard Wiley. Also recognized were Mark Clasby and Bud Cohoon, who were unable to attend the event. “Our success didn’t occur by accident,” said President Mark Pope. “Today’s NCEDA is built on the firm foundation left by our previous leaders.”
The morning included an announcement of NCEDA scholarship winners for 2019. This year’s winner of the Jack Ervin EDI Scholarship is Tyler Chaffee, Vice President at Winston-Salem Business. The Governor James E. Holshouser Professional Development Scholarship goes to Alyssa Byrd, President of Chatham Economic Development Corporation. The recipient of NCEDA’s Dan Stewart EDC Scholarship is Kathleen Henry, Economic Development Director at Wake County Economic Development.
Click HERE for a complete conference program, roster of attendees and links to the presentations.