Initiative Is Off To a Good Start
"T hings have changed," says Pat Corso, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress. "We have to do something different. We want to own our future."
We couldn't agree more. Traditional economic development, consisting of going out and conducting an "elephant hunt" to recruit companies, has mostly gone by the wayside. Most companies will now use a consultant to help them find a location, so states and counties and towns might not even know a company is interested in them until it's too late. The number of leads has dropped off sharply from a couple of decades ago.
That's why it's good news that so much underwriting money has already been obtained for the imaginative new Moore County Regional Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative.
This effort will be looking at not only recruiting entrepreneurs to Moore ounty, but also growing our own local nes and retaining them - as well as helping existing business grow and stay here.
Targeting Three Clusters
Under these approaches, attention will focus on three clusters identified by the recent study: technology, wellness and the military.
For example, agriculture remains our biggest industry. Corso is working with farmers on ways to incorporate agriculture nto the wellness cluster - which, broadly defined, includes the food you put into your body as well as the exercise you get.
The other clusters are also broadly identified. An "entrepreneur," for instance, can mean a recently retired person who wants to start a business. "Military" can include attracting Fort Bragg families so they live here and not in another county. That cluster will also include working closely with military contractors already in business here, as well as trying to attract more of them.
The level of engagement among stakeholders in the Initiative has remained gratifyingly high. There was a large turnout when things kicked off in May. About 50 attendees volunteered for the four working groups, and there was an even larger turnout more recently, when the findings from the study were released.
The estimated price tag for the Initiative's first-year operating cost is $250,000, a substantial amount. But the good news is that $67,500 in pledges had already been made at last report to help underwrite that first year. The steps now being taken hold promise of sustaining the needed momentum over the long haul, especially in the human capital department. The steering committee is morphing into an advisory council.
Susan Purser, who recently retired as Moore County Schools superintendent, will remain as chair, which is a piece of good fortune considering her level of enthusiasm, energy and commitment to the program. The Initiative will be housed at the Moore Chamber of Commerce building and is also seeking to bring in Moore County Schools and Sandhills Community College as partners.
The keys now will be maintaining a sense of forward motion, keeping participants engaged, and fully tapping the remarkable amount of human and financial capital in the county. There's a long road ahead, but we're off to a great start.
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