Recently, Golden LEAF President, Chief Executive Officer Scott T. Hamilton sat down with Chris Chung, the Chief Executive Officer of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), via Zoom and filmed the second episode in a new video series called Critical Conversations. In this series, Scott talks with professionals about economic development issues affecting the state.
Chung provided his perspective on where he sees the opportunities for business and industry in the wake of the pandemic.
During the conversation, Chung mentioned the possible long-term changes in needs for brick and mortar for some industries. While less than half of the working population can work from home because of the type of work they do, it is still unclear if these businesses will allow the option long-term. What we do know is that manufacturing and other industries that require in-person work are at a place where they are reevaluating where they need to be located. Chung sees an opportunity to aggressively promote North Carolina as a great place to live and work because of the natural beauty and great educational and healthcare systems the state offers.
The Golden LEAF Board recently approved launching a new Site Development and Infrastructure Program to support needs for rural, tobacco-dependent, and economically distressed areas. Golden LEAF has dedicated $10 million to this new program and will continue to fund critical infrastructure through existing programs as well. More information will be available in the next few months about the new Site Development and Infrastructure Program.
Chung also talked about the need for talent to help grow business and industry in our state. While unemployment is high due to a number of factors, the state has a robust higher education system that can train our workforce. Golden LEAF has supported the North Carolina Community College System through scholarships and funding for equipment, buildings, and other infrastructure to help provide business and industry with the skilled workforce they need. Although there is a skills gap, there are systems in place to fill the gaps in worker readiness. Golden LEAF is proud to partner with the North Carolina Community College System on providing a prepared workforce to meet the needs of local employers.
In the area of agriculture, Chung said there is a position at EDPNC dedicated to bringing agribusiness to the state. He added that the pandemic created an opportunity for food manufacturing because more people were eating and preparing meals at home. From food manufacturing to agriculture research, Golden LEAF provides support for the number one industry in the state. In October 2020, the Golden LEAF Board provided $2 million to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to add new and expanded testing services at its newly constructed 225,000-square-foot Agricultural Sciences Center. Golden LEAF funds will leverage more than $117 million in state investment for programs that will directly benefit North Carolina’s farmers. These new and enhanced services, including a faster turnaround for results, will enhance farm operations across the state.
Lastly, Chung addressed strategies for growing business and industry in North Carolina. EDPNC works together with the North Carolina Department of Commerce to recruit and grow business and industry in North Carolina. Golden LEAF is a strong asset for these economic development agencies to support projects that benefit rural, tobacco-dependent, and economically distressed areas of our state. Through programs such as Economic Catalyst, Golden LEAF provides support for infrastructure, buildings, and even equipment that helps bring opportunity for quality jobs in our state.
Critical Conversations is a new feature in the Golden LEAF newsletter every other month. The next edition will be in our July 8th edition of LEAF Lines.