By Harvey Schmitt, President and CEO of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce
As North Carolina and the U.S. emerge from the economic downturn, our region faces challenges and opportunities for economic growth and development.
For all of us with a vested interest in the region’s prosperity, a sound strategy to retain, grow, and attract quality jobs along with the infrastructure and work force needed to support it is an urgent priority.
Current realities require a renewed and even more collaborative strategy. We need to preserve and protect our existing economic drivers and position ourselves to be proactive, not reactive. We cannot sit on the sidelines and hope for the best.
Our region has long established itself as a dynamic, globally relevant market driven by growth-oriented companies in industries fueled by knowledge and innovation.
Our competition for jobs and investment in these industries are equally successful in regions like Austin, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Denver, just to name a few. And competitive advantage (or disadvantage) is increasingly a function of talent and cluster industries. The chamber’s latest initiative “Edge 5 – The Leading Edge” represents a focused approach to enhancing the region’s most promising clusters using proven strategies around new business attraction, existing business support, talent development and retention and quality of place and sustainability. It also integrates Raleigh and Wake County economic development agendas with shared interests of the broader Triangle region through collaborations with the Research Triangle Regional Partnership.
The chamber’s “Edge” campaigns have a solid 20-year track record of driving the region’s growth. Since its establishment in 1994, the chamber’s Competitive Edge initiatives have invested more than $30 million dollars to spearhead job creation for Raleigh, Wake County and the Research Triangle region. It has become one of the most effective public-private partnerships in the country, with great leadership and funding provided by local businesses coupled with support from the City of Raleigh and Wake County. Its primary mission has always been economic growth and job creation.
This spring the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce will launch Edge 5, a $12 million, five-year capital campaign (2015-2019), designed to ensure our global competitiveness by capitalizing on our strengths and advantages while also addressing our weaknesses. We believe it represents a critical continuing commitment to making our city, county and region the best they can be.
The execution of previous Edge initiatives has generated significant returns and impact. Over the past 4 years alone from Edge 4 — $51.32 was returned to the community in average corporate profits for every dollar invested in economic development. A total of 20,575 new jobs were created in Raleigh and Wake County, representing more than $4.7 billion of new economic output.
Edge 5 will do more.
Our economic impact analysis projects Edge 5 will facilitate approximately 25,000 new jobs and inject $5.5 billion into our area economy over the next five years. Edge 5 will also incorporate strategies to build our economic development assets and to tell the story of what is happening in our community to global decision makers.
Edge 5 will ensure that our region’s economic development team is competitive, innovative, and future-looking. It’s also an opportunity for the public and private sector to partner in building a better and more prosperous place. Nationwide, public/private partnerships like Edge – with strong leadership and support from local business leaders – have proven to be the most effective economic development drivers.
With a clear strategy and capital injection, the chamber with its partners can seize the opportunity to create the jobs and economic energy needed to sustain us in the years ahead. Over the next five to six months, the chamber will be reaching out to the community and seeking financial support for this important program in pursuit of proactive development that will keep us one of the best places to live and work not just in America but in the world.