Entrepreneurship and innovation headline Charlotte’s new economic development plan

October 28, 2016

This is an article originally published in the Charlotte Business Journal.

The Charlotte Chamber and the Charlotte Regional Partnership finally revealed details on their joint regional economic development strategy. After much speculation, it is confirmed that entrepreneurship and innovation will be top of mind for the city moving forward — a win for local entrepreneurs in need of support and resources.

The plan is based on a study of the region by Avalanche Consulting in Austin, Texas. More details of the report were revealed Tuesday at the chamber’s fall retreat in Asheville.Amy Holloway, president and CEO of Avalanche, presented an overview of the report with comments from Bob Morgan, CEO of chamber, and Ronnie Bryant, CEO of the partnership.

The economic development consulting firm started its study of Charlotte’s business community in February. Holloway says her team created a 27-member task force of community leaders and interviewed over 100 individuals in the city to better understand all aspects of the region.

“I want you to have confidence the study reflects a lot of the other good initiatives taking place in the community,” Holloway told the room full of business leaders. “This has great stakeholder buy in from across the region.”

Holloway says the report is meant to serve as a “unified economic development strategy for the region,” that aligns activities of the chamber and regional partnership. The report’s findings encourage more collaboration within the business community.

She broke the report down in four areas: Marketing, innovation, talent and infrastructure.

Holloway says Charlotte needs to “refresh and rebuild” its brand. She says that point was determined before recent civil unrest, so now strengthening the city’s brand is “even more important today than ever.”

“We have had a very strong brand in Charlotte — it’s highly regarded,” Holloway says. “It needs to continue to be invested in.”

The second goal spelled out in the report is to build a “robust” entrepreneurial community here.

“I have to tell you in our research we found that for a region of your size, Charlotte is not as competitive on the entrepreneurial landscape,” Holloway says. “It doesn’t have the type of robust entrepreneurial resources we see in other metropolitan areas in the country. That is something you all should work on.”

The report recommends the chamber take a leading role in the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Holloway says the chamber could be the “coordinating body of entrepreneurial activities in Charlotte,” and even fund a “vice president of innovation,” position. She also recommends “elevating and celebrating,” local entrepreneurs.

Holloway also touched on the city’s need to work on attracting and retaining talent, as well as its infrastructure and resources for all members of the community.

The chamber and the partnership revealed the initial findings of the study at an event in July. The event was closed to media. Sources close to the matter told the Charlotte Business Journalentrepreneurship would be given more attention and acknowledgement in the final report.

In its research phase, Avalanche received three reports on the local startup scene: A report mapping the ecosystem from 2013, the Charlotte Entrepreneur Growth Report from February and the Charlotte Entrepreneurship Solution Design Sprint from April.

Holloway says the chamber now has the full report and encourages members of the business community to take a look.

Read this article in the Charlotte Business Journal.