Q&A with Michael Haley: Building an Equitable, Inclusive Future for Wake County

There is no one-sized-fits all approach to equitable economic development. Rather, it needs to be reflective of the community, supported by the community and a part of the community. That’s the perspective of Michael Haley, Executive Director of Wake County Economic Development and Senior Vice President of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.

When explaining the benefits of the region’s equitable economic development (EED) program, Michael sees it as a way to focus on becoming a better community every day.

“It’s about action,” he said. “Not planning, or lip service. But action.”

Following our conversation with Danya Perry, Wake County Economic Development’s Director of Equitable Economic Development, we sat down with Michael to discuss some of his favorite success stories and talk about the program’s future.

Q: As this type of program becomes more common across other metros, how do you plan to stay ahead of the curve and continue differentiating your region?

First of all, the good news is that these programs are becoming more common across other metros. This isn’t a “secret sauce” kind of program or anything like that - this is something that we want more people to do, to talk more about equity, inclusivity and diversity, and most importantly, to act on those things.

Rather than differentiating, maybe it’s more about figuring out how we can continue to evolve our own programs, and I think a lot of that has to do with continuing to be reflective of the needs of the community by listening and hearing what the challenges are.

Q: What are your top three goals for the EED initiative moving forward?

I don’t want this to be a static program, so for me it’s about opportunity, inclusiveness, and evolution.

Q: In 5 years, what does success of this program look like to you?

One element of success that I would like to see in the next 5 years is that we are tracking our work via clear, widely acceptable metrics around economic mobility and economic prosperity. I’d also love for success to be companies easily sharing best practices with each other about how to increase inclusivity and opportunity, as well as sharing across company lines, sharing with our public sector partners, that idea that we’re all in this together. 

Q: Can you point to one of your favorite success stories to come out of this program?

We worked in collaboration with the Wake County government and county commissioners to support new jobs and new investment in targeted growth areas. One of my favorite wins of this was the local expansion of a German advanced manufacturing company called Schmalz. They were able to expand their operations in a targeted growth area and hire more people in a vulnerable community in Wake County. That’s really exciting!

Another great thing we’ve implemented is called a Pathways Program. New micro small businesses go through a program with Wake Technical Community College that helps them refine their business plan. It’s really focused on small minority and women-owned businesses, and we thought this was so cool and wanted to see how we could support this initiative. So we decided to give each of these businesses a year-long, free membership to the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, and through this Pathways Program, the businesses become more familiar with what the Chamber does, how it can support their business growth, and acts as a sort of mentor as they start off on this really exciting journey as a new business.

Click here to learn more about Equitable Economic Development in Wake County.



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