Networking and strengthening the state’s economy was the primary focus of a Leadership North Carolina training session held March 7-8 on the campus of UNC Pembroke.
Fifty-five top leaders from government, business, nonprofit and education sectors participated in a two-day session to broaden their understanding of economic development and the future of North Carolina’s economy.
“Issues centered on education, health and human services, government and the environment all interplay with economic development,” said Brian Etheridge, president of Leadership NC, a nonprofit organization based in Raleigh.
“It is those key relationships with people in these areas that are going to be the key to our success in the future.”
Holding the session in Robeson County allowed event organizers to show the engine that UNCP is to the region and highlight local initiatives and leaders who are making an impact on the economic development, Etheridge said.
Speakers and panelists emphasized education and workforce development as key drivers of economic development. Breakout sessions touched on the Lumbee Tribe’s role in regional economy and featured a roundtable with entrepreneurs based at the university’s Entrepreneurship Incubator.
Among the key speakers were Secretary of Commerce Anthony Copeland, Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF Foundation president, Venessa Harrison, president of AT&T North Carolina, and John Geib, director of Economic Development for Duke Energy.
“The greatest value of an attendee is increased perspective,” said Geib, following his presentation on the future of infrastructure development.
“Listening to the cast of speakers they have brought in to talk on various topics gives them a much broader and balanced perspective and a much more informed opinion.”
The economic development session at UNCP was one of six offered to this year’s cohort. The Leadership North Carolina Program cultivates a network of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences who share a deep commitment to their state. The courses are designed to expand their understanding of challenges and opportunities facing the state.
“It’s all about collaboration and public/private partnerships in order to achieve the goals we need for the state of North Carolina and for individual areas, such as here in Pembroke,” Harrison added.
“Being a part of Leadership North Carolina, I hope these individuals will walk away understanding the importance of being strong leaders and developing other leaders to be to take that same journey to be successful whether it be within their business, in the community or through education overall.”
Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings, who was among the speakers, said the opportunity to host this high level of leadership is invaluable.
“Leadership North Carolina is a recognized force in developing leaders in North Carolina,” said Cummings, a Leadership NC alumnus.
“This an incredible affirmation of what UNC Pembroke is trying to do in Robeson County and across Southeastern North Carolina. It indicates to us that they believe in our mission as an economic driver.”
It is equally important for the state’s leaders to gain an understanding of rural North Carolina.
Cummings adds, “The challenges a rural economy, like Robeson County, faces are unique. The opportunity to engage key decision makers in our state with what is important – and what drives Southeast North Carolina – will be key to making a difference for generations to come. We appreciate Leadership North Carolina for the opportunity to highlight economic development in our region.”