By: Noor Bokhari, Program Coordinator, Wake County Economic Development
Over the past month, our community has been navigating the impact of COVID-19 and renewed interests to dismantle systemic racism. Tragic events around the world have turned our attention to some of the historical challenges and systems that created an atmosphere for sustained disparity. However, there is a renewed energy to ensure inclusive prosperity – which was the focus of our forum.
Our conversation started with a presentation from Marek Gootman, a nonresident senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings Institution. Gootman launched our conversation by providing a framework of the underlying issues of inequities, the challenges from an economic development perspective, and strategies to promote inclusive prosperity and sustained economic mobility. Following Gootman, we had an opportunity to hear perspectives from Mary Ann Baldwin, Mayor, City of Raleigh, and Greg Ford, Chairman, Wake County Board of Commissioners.
Key Takeaways from our Conversation:
Greater economic mobility leads to higher economic growth.
There is a social and moral case for inclusion, but it is important to recognize that there is also a business case. Recognizing the business case for inclusion engages nontraditional stakeholders in a shared goal of making the economy work for more people. Firms do better when they are engaging the workforce and their leadership in ways that are more inclusive and diverse. The bottom line is companies that have assets in place and engage more of the diverse populations in the economy do better business.
Implications for redefining economic development success
Gootman says defining equitable economic growth in regions requires a different kind of metric. Although it is easier to measure growth, growth is insufficient in determining economic success. You also have to take into account how well your firms are doing in productivity (prosperity), and who is benefiting from that growth (inclusion).
The concept of “prosperity for all” is something everyone can easily agree with. However, it is important to determine what metrics firms are actually measuring themselves against and how they are defining that economic inclusion. These metrics can include aspects such as growth, prosperity, inclusion, and elements of racial inclusion and geography.
How is Raleigh doing in these metrics?
In terms of change over time, we are ranking very high in elements of growth, prosperity, and inclusion. We are also ranking relatively high in elements of racial inclusion. However, Gootman notes that while the employment rate, median earnings, and relative poverty rate gaps are closing, there is a big difference between the white population and people of color.
Moving the Needle Locally
Both Mayor Baldwin and Chairman Ford shared the importance of collaboration to ensure the creation of strong ladders for success. Best practices and strategies to support small businesses and entrepreneurs, increase workforce housing, and reinforce workforce development efforts were echoed by both speakers.
A great example of the above that was identified during this conversation was the City and County’s support in the creation of incentives to support companies to grow and expand in our Targeted Growth Areas (TGA).
For example, these incentives supported the headquarters’ expansion of Raleigh-based manufacturer Schmalz Inc. The investment in this TGA is approximately $10.5 million over a five-year period starting in 2020, with the creation of 62 new jobs over that time period with wages above the Wake County average. Both local leaders agreed that current strategies are just the beginning of our efforts to move the needle of economic mobility and inclusive prosperity.
These takeaways will help drive opportunities for our region and will continue to shape the work of equitable economic development.
We sincerely appreciate the support of all our sponsors and speakers. Because of their commitment to the summit, we are able to bring you information, resources, and tangible takeaways in a virtual format.
Let us keep the conversation and momentum moving for our next three sessions, you can register for the remainder of the Economic Development Summit 2020 here.