Grandover Resort was the place to have breakfast on Tuesday, Feb. 19 if you had anything at all to do with economic development in this region.
At the annual Piedmont Triad Partnership Breakfast Briefing, more than 100 business, education, government and economic development leaders met at Grandover to hear from speakers such as NC Department of Transportation Secretary Jim Trogdon, NC Community College System President Peter Hans, Piedmont Triad Partnership President and CEO Stan Kelly and High Point University President Nido Qubein.
The group dug into breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and then, thirty minutes later, turned its focus to economic development. Trogdon spoke on the ways the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is accelerating road projects to meet the growing transportation needs of this region as well as the state.
He said North Carolina’s population is projected to grow by more than 2 million over the next 15 years and said the state’s transportation structure must be ready for it.
“With this tremendous growth comes challenges and opportunities,” he told the group assembled at Grandover. “We are proactively planning to further increase our state’s competitiveness and enhance our economy through accelerating projects and streamlining delivery to build more roads more quickly.”
Recently, at meetings of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, the Guilford County Economic Development Alliance and the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, a new regional branding push – called the “Carolina Core” – has been a big topic of discussion and it was also front and center at the power breakfast in the newly renovated resort.
That initiative is an attempt to link and market four megasites in central North Carolina under the single Carolina Core brand. The megasite at Piedmont Triad International Airport and the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite just south of Guilford County are two of those four.
Some critics are skeptical of the program because it’s at heart a rebranding effort; however, Kelly and others have called the program “transformative” and it has become a major topic of discussion in the last few months.
Trogdon said at the meeting that progress has been made along the Carolina Core corridor with major road renovation and construction projects like Business I-40 in Winston-Salem, the loop around Greensboro and I-73 around PTIA.
“Working together with local and regional leaders, these are the kinds of projects we want to continue accelerating to have a major economic impact,” he said.
In addition to transportation, workforce prep through education was also a hot topic at the breakfast.
Hans focused on the need to accelerate the delivery of high-quality education to an increasingly diverse and growing population to ensure North Carolina’s economic competitiveness going forward.
He said that, in his meetings with business leaders across the state, it has become clear that they were pleased with the job the community college system has been doing, but he added that continuous improvement is a priority.
“You need more workers with more skills, and that is where the community colleges come in,” he said, adding that it was happening through customized job training programs and other targeted classes at community colleges across the state.
Hans called the system and the economic development community “partners” in bringing growth and he spoke about the college system’s role in the Carolina Core effort.
“We’ll provide you with the human infrastructure and talent pipeline needed to ensure continued competitiveness in the Carolina Core,” Hans said. “I know that the collaborative regional approach is exactly the right one. When these megasites become mega facilities, we’ll be ready. Count us in. We’ll help you get the job done.”
At the breakfast meeting, other regional leaders also highlighted the strides made over the last year in regional collaboration throughout central North Carolina. Qubein, who’s overseen a massive growth spurt at that High Point University over the last decade, offered his words of encouragement.
“Leadership is having faith and courage, and putting those two together to have faithful courage,” Qubein told the group. “When we have faithful courage and work together, we can move mountains, but when we work alone, we can only move hills. We believe that a win for one is a win for all. We have significant momentum in the Carolina Core, and I am convinced that together, our future is bright and promising.”