Thursday, July 27, 2023

Commerce’s First in Talent Town Hall Highlights Progress in Year Two of State’s Strategic Plan

Raleigh, N.C.
Jul 27, 2023

The North Carolina Department of Commerce and several of its state partners provided updates on the state’s economic development strategic plan during a virtual First in Talent Town Hall today. The 2023 annual economic performance evaluation report noted that the Commerce department has made progress on 32 of the 44 tactics in the plan since launching in 2021.

As a four-year comprehensive economic development plan, the First in Talent Plan (FITP) focuses on three key goals to prepare North Carolina’s workforce, businesses, and communities for success.

“I’m proud of the progress we’ve made just two years into the economic development plan,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “With Governor Cooper’s leadership and our strong public-private partnerships statewide, we’ve seen great success as a state, but more investments in our public education system are necessary to remain competitive and the best state to do business."

Leah Carper, the 2022 North Carolina Burroughs Wellcome Fund Teacher of the Year, realized the parallels of the First in Talent Plan and public education, including an emphasis on durable skills - formerly known as soft skills, like collaboration and communication.

“A strong infrastructure in early childhood education and our K-12 school systems, is key to supporting the work of the First in Talent Plan. I’m amazed at how much I heard about durable skills today. We need educators who are capable and trained in helping students get those skills.”
The town hall featured three panel discussions which highlighted accomplishments that align with vital strategies that advance the FITP’s workforce, business, and community goals.

The Workforce Panel discussed the strategies to lead the nation in work-based learning and increase labor force participation rates for populations with barriers. 

In 2022, the N.C. Workforce Credentials Council published a list of more than 130 non-degree industry-valued credentials to help students and employees prepare for in-demand and frontline careers that are essential to North Carolina’s future.

“As a state that aims to be ‘First in Talent’ it’s imperative that we deploy work-based learning opportunities and apprenticeships that offer K-12 students practical work experiences for rewarding careers in high-demand fields,” said workforce panelist Trey Michael, Senior Director of Career and Technical Education at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

The Business Panel shared updates on strategies to promote talent development and enhance business growth and to invest in key production sectors that fuel our state and national economies.

Last year, Commerce partnered with Family Forward NC which trained approximately 200 business counselors across the state on strategies to help North Carolina companies offer family-friendly policies that better recruit and retain talent.

Panelist Dr. Jenni Harris, the Executive Director of Business Services for Commerce’s Division of Workforce Solutions, noted “employee retention and productivity are higher with inclusive and healthy workplaces and family-friendly policies that put employees first. Companies should continually evaluate their policies and ensure they offer competitive salaries and benefits that meet employee demographics.”

The Communities Panel covered advances in broadband access and affordability and physical infrastructure to attract, residents, workers, and businesses to North Carolina.

Most of the state’s economic development announcements of 2022, like Macy’s and Wolfspeed, chose more rural or economically distressed areas for major expansions and new operations because of the state’s available sites.

“Industrial sites are necessary for economic prosperity in our more economically distressed communities,” Angela Gailliard, the Director for Programs for the Golden LEAF Foundation, added while discussing communities. “Our SITE program helps communities identify, prepare, and develop potential sites that ultimately create more jobs and investments for rural North Carolina.”

The complete list of panelists for the town hall included:

  • N.C. Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders
  • Chet Mottershead, Assistant Secretary, Division of Workforce Solutions, N.C. Commerce 
  • Eric Haddock, Reentry Coordinator, Division of Workforce Solutions, N.C. Commerce 
  • Trey Michael, Senior Director of Career and Technical Education, N.C. Public Instruction
  • Danielle Frazier, outgoing President/CEO of Charlotte Works
  • Marqueta Welton, Chief of Staff, N.C. Commerce 
  • Dr. Jenni Harris, Executive Director of Business Services, Division of Workforce Solutions, N.C. Commerce
  • Konrad Wisniewski, Business Relationship Manager, N.C. Commerce 
  • Dr. John Hardin, Executive Director of the Office of Science, Technology, and Innovation, N.C. Commerce
  • Jordan Whichard, Chief Deputy Secretary, N.C. Commerce
  • Kenny Flowers, Assistant Secretary, Rural Economic Development Division, N.C. Commerce
  • David Icenhour, Executive Director, Alexander County Economic Development Corporation, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Partner
  • Angela Gailliard, Director of Programs, Golden LEAF Foundation

A digital copy of the Strategic Economic Development Plan can be found here.