The final event of the Inter-Regional Visit took place at WeWork in Downtown Durham. The Innovation/Entrepreneur panel featured Jessica Mitsch, CEO, Momentum; Adam Klein, Director of Strategy, Capitol Broadcasting Company; Bridget Harrington, Executive Director, Innovate Raleigh; and Jason Widen, Co-Founder, HQ Raleigh.
Mitsch moderated the discussion and started by asking panelists to discuss talent, focusing on how the neighboring universities attract top talent to jobs in Raleigh, Durham, and the Triangle. “In Durham, our approach has been to spend more time with student groups, and our student partnerships have been beneficial,” said Klein.
Panelists discussed the importance of educating the youth to produce top talent and noted a gap in senior-level, experienced talent to drive business success. “We need to drive more talent to the region,” said Widen. He reiterated that it’s important to draw talent from local universities as well as outside the state but reminded attendees that it’s critical to recognize the talent currently working in your businesses.
Following a brief panelist discussion, the floor was opened for questions from the audience. Kurt Krause, President and CEO, VisitNorfolk asked panelists how the arts play a role in attracting business to the region. Klein replied that the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) plays an instrumental role in the art scene. “DPAC plays a huge role and pays dividends to the city,” said Klein.
“As our footprint widens, the creative community comes knocking,” Widen said, following up on Klein’s remark. Mitsch also pointed out that the International Bluegrass Festival happening now and the Electronic Music Festival in the fall are generating tourism within the region.
Bruce McKay, Senior Energy Policy Director of State and Local Affairs, Dominion Energy asked panelists their thoughts on what would have happened if the region were selected to house the second Amazon Headquarters. “I think it would have forced our community to address some challenges regionally, such as transit,” said Harrington. She also mentioned that having Amazon headquartered in Durham would have fueled the growth of the region’s economy.
Klein added, “If Amazon would have partnered with the community and contributed to the entrepreneurial landscape, then it could have been tremendously helpful to the startup community, or if they came to take away jobs it would be disastrous for the startup business community.” Mitsch concluded the Q&A with, “We are going to have a satellite amazon office, its just a matter of time and size. The talent here is strong.”
Thank you to the following sponsors: Dominion Energy (Presenting Sponsor); S.B. Ballard Construction Company (Bag Sponsor); VisitNorfolk (Opening Reception and Dinner Sponsor); Principle Advantage (Mayor’s Reception Sponsor); Williams Mullen (Dinner Sponsor); PNC (Luncheon Sponsor); Safelight Auto Glass, James White (Scholarship Sponsor); Cox (Supporting Sponsor).