“At the end of the day, I want a North Carolina where people are better educated, where they’re healthier, where they have more money in their pockets and where they have the opportunities to live a more abundant and purposeful life.”
With this vision in mind, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper urged private capital investors to work with government policymakers to bolster investment in the state’s economy. His remarks were part of a keynote address to attendees of the first-ever North Carolina Investment Forum, held Wednesday, November 1, at the Kenan Center in Chapel Hill.
The invitation-only forum, hosted by the Frank H. Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, convened a unique assemblage of roughly 100 private capital investors who back North Carolina-based companies – along with top state government leaders, elected officials and economic development experts – for information-sharing and dialogue.
In his keynote, the governor stressed that financing business ventures is only part of the equation for economic success. Without investments in health and education, companies have a hard time finding qualified workers. Cooper said that the number one question he’s asked by companies looking to establish themselves in North Carolina is, “Do you have the people to fill the jobs?”
For Mark Velleca, CEO of G1 Therapeutics and one of the afternoon’s presenters, the answer is yes. Velleca talked about establishing his company in Research Triangle Park in part because of the skilled talent pool. He also discussed the importance of seed-stage investment to G1’s success, adding that the effect of such investment extends beyond a single company. “It builds the whole ecosystem,” he said, citing the support services, suppliers and vendors that companies need as they grow.
In addition to Governor Cooper, North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Tony Copeland and State Treasurer Dale Folwell also took part in the day’s events. Both said the forum was a significant milestone in the public-private partnership of investing in North Carolina. “Conversations like today’s are important,” said Treasurer Folwell, “because no one has a monopoly on all the good ideas.” Secretary Copeland added that the forum was “a perfect example of a group of people who actually are the leadership [and] who have the vision to create the future.”
As part of the forum, participants discussed their vision for North Carolina’s business investment future and laid out steps needed to make that vision a reality. Kel Landis, co-founder and partner at Plexus Capital, worked hand-in-hand with the Kenan Institute to organize the event. He expressed his hope that the group could find ways to close the economic gap between urban and rural counties. “The Kenan Institute’s mission is to put knowledge to work,” he said, “We went to work here today to talk about very deliberate strategies about how private capital can really move the needle with economic development.”
In addition to business and private capital leaders from across the state, the forum also welcomed a broad range of voices including N.C. Representative Bill Brawley, senior chairman of the North Carolina General Assembly’s Finance Committee; Jeanne Milliken Bonds of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond; Joe Shepard of the U.S. Small Business Administration; and a number of top academic researchers from universities across the state.
A white paper listing all participants, encapsulating the forum’s discussion and outlining next steps in full will be made available in the coming weeks on the Kenan Institute’s research page. Learn more and register for upcoming events hosted by the Kenan Institute.