Leaders Seek Momentum for New Initiative
Financial commitments have already been secured to help underwrite first-year costs for the Moore County Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.
“It’s very positive to get all of this early support,” said Pat Corso, executive director of Partners in Progress, the county’s economic development arm. “Now, the onus is on us to perform.”
A new feasibility study estimates that at least $250,000 is needed, and $67,500 has been pledged so far.
“It’s huge,” Corso said. “Things have changed. We have to do something different. We want to own our future.”
Partners in Progress hired Forward Communities earlier this year to conduct the study, and representatives of both groups presented the findings Wednesday to about 80 people at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club.
The study looked at ways to create, recruit and retain new businesses. It suggested Moore County focus on entrepreneurs in the technology, wellness and military industries.
“These three clusters come together in a number of ways to present opportunities for Moore County,” said former Schools Superintendent Susan Purser, who chaired the feasibility study steering committee. “This is a 10-year vision to move the county forward. The vision is about hope, the future and success.”
Forward Communities is a subsidiary of Bull City Forward (BCF), a Durham-based nonprofit focused on catalyzing sustainable enterprises. BCF was founded in spring 2010 and served as the model for last fall’s launch of Queen City Forward in Charlotte.
BCF builds pipelines for future entrepreneurs through school and university partnerships, recruitment of outside talent and retaining existing talent, among other methods.
It provides a strong environment to grow and accelerate new ideas through shared work space for co-working, a comprehensive assistance network and access to critical support resources, including financial capital.
Christopher Gergen, founding executive director of BCF, said unveiling the study and seeking feedback from stakeholders “is just the beginning of the journey.”
“We need your continued input to make this successful. This is an all-hands-on-deck effort,” Gergen told the group. “We want to leverage existing assets in Moore County to catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Gergen, Corso and Purser all said they were impressed with the turnout Wednesday and level of engagement.
“You had professionals, politicians, retirees and young people,” Corso said. “It was an interesting cross-section of people, and they all asked the right questions.”
Gergen said Moore County cannot afford to take the study lightly.
“I sensed resounding support for the initiative,” he said. “Now, I think people are hungry for more and are willing to roll up their sleeves to make this vision a reality.”
Gergen added that the initiative will likely apply next month for an innovation grant from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center.
“There’s a big opportunity here,” he said. “You’ve just got to make it happen.”
Corso said the initiative will be housed at the Moore County Chamber of Commerce, which is co-sponsoring the initiative, and he hopes to have an executive director in place by Jan. 1.
“We’re going to crawl before we walk, obviously, but we’re going to do things efficiently,” he said. “We also want to bring in Sandhills Community College and the public schools system. They would be important partners moving forward.”
Purser said the initiative has covered a lot of ground in a short period of time.
“We want to become an entrepreneurial model for rural development,” she said. “But right now we just want to keep the momentum going.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or tnatt@the pilot.com.
More like this story