WCED Blog


Economic Development Summit Series: Final Recap

By: Michael Haley, Executive Director, Wake County Economic Development

Over the last year, our team had been working on putting together an economic development summit that we couldn’t wait to share with you. Our plan was to hold a half-day (in-person) summit and present content that explored the evolution of economic development and featured programing that was engaging and interactive. Then the pandemic hit…

 If I have learned anything about economic development, being able to adapt to changing conditions is a big part of being successful in this field. Our team is built to withstand such challenges, and we are pleased to have presented you with meaningful content over the last four weeks in a virtual setting. While we were looking forward to seeing you in-person and meeting a few new faces, we were still able to share timely content that will help this community rebuild. We are pleased to report, our virtual summit series attracted 200 unique stakeholders that registered to attend the 4 sessions. 

 Below, we’ve shared links to the blogs recapping the first three seminars.

Our final seminar in our series featured an all-star line-up as we heard from Adrienne Cole, president and CEO of the Raleigh Chamber and David Morken, CEO of Bandwidth. This “CEO to CEO Conversation” covered the recent announcement from Bandwidth, challenges and opportunities in our region, pandemic recovery, racial tensions, and what’s next for Raleigh and the region? I have shared some of my favorite quotes from the seminar below:

  • When Adrienne asked David about Bandwidth’s culture during the pandemic: “Our frontline leaders are loving their teams, demonstrating leadership through the heart and mind.”
  • Adrienne’s question to David about the impact of racial tensions: “It is vital to understand where people come from and relate to other experiences and maintain a culture of merit-based performance.”
  • A guest from the audience asked about reopening Bandwidth: “We are all going to emerge from our homes into the bright light of an in-person future. I think the bar is getting raised for what the office experience will be like now to continue to encourage collaboration at work.”
  • Adrienne asked David about the future of the region: “The Research Triangle Park happened because people came together… Government, industry, education all crossed the lines to work together to prepare for the next 50 years. We need that now.”
  • When the audience asked David why he continues to choose Raleigh for his business and new HQ expansion: “ I tell everyone that Raleigh is the best place for business and my family. It’s no secret how much I love it here! Raleigh is strategically positioned in the best location on the East Coast for business for numerous reasons such as the proximity to multiple bodies of water, the RDU International airport, abundance of talent from the world-class universities here, and more.”

As we wrap-up our economic development summit for the year, I wanted to share a few of my takeaways from the series.

  • Increased economic mobility leads to increased prosperity
    • There is certainly a social and moral case for inclusion, but it’s important to recognize that there is also a business case. Recognizing the business case for inclusion engages non-traditional stakeholders in a shared goal of increasing opportunity and ultimately prosperity for all.
  • Employers are changing the way they source and evaluate talent
    • One of the most important preliminary findings from the Regional Skills Analysis survey was that employers are broadening their talent pool by looking at alternatives to four-year degrees as credentials for hiring. This will have an impact on our workforce development system, but will also mean people can access different types of jobs. While growth may be uneven across industries, we have an opportunity to bring people into careers, not just jobs that allow increased access to a career lattice or ladder thereby increasing our community’s prosperity.
  • Ready, Reset, Go! . . . but make sure there is widely shared opportunity
    • The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our economy and our lives. It is important for us to remember that Wake County and the region is the most competitive metro in the country. Yes, this is a “reset” moment but the market’s fundamentals, strong talent, educational ecosystem, diverse economy, and high quality of life are our strengths and will enable us to recover. However, we must ensure that this recovery is accessible to our entire community. 

While the road ahead is uncertain, I’m confident our community will pull together and use our collaborative spirit to navigate this next chapter. Thank you to our EDGE investors for supporting this event and to our sponsors. Your commitment to economic development will help this community rebuild.

Gold Sponsor
Credit Suisse 

Silver Sponsors
City of Raleigh Office of Economic Development & Innovation
Highwoods Properties, Inc.

Bronze Sponsors
Carolina Hurricanes
Martin Marietta
Relate Advocacy
Wake Technical Community College

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