“The IRV that we could not have planned this event without the support of local chambers here in Raleigh, Durham and the Triangle,” began Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Chamber, during lunch at Mez in Durham on September 25, the last day of the IRV.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Mayor Bell and I’ve never worked with a stronger leader,” said Geoff Durham, President and CEO, Durham Chamber of Commerce, as he introduced the keynote speaker.
The Honorary Bill Bell, Former Mayor of Durham welcomed a group of 75 Hampton Roads Delegates to Durham. Bell discussed his contributions and involvement to the community. “Durham is an interesting community, I’m here by choice not by chance,” said Bell. He began by recognizing Durham’s status as the 4th largest city in North Carolina, noting the economy was built on textiles, tobacco, and farming industries. Bell noted the economic decline Durham experienced as those industries fizzled out, causing the economy to suffer in the 1950’s.
“When those industries went away, the economy downtown collapsed,” said Bell. “It was almost like a ghost town.” However, Bell said through the founding of the Research Triangle Park, the economy of Durham experienced a revival. “What unites us is the research triangle park,” said Bell.
Mayor Bell continued with a discussion about public and private partnerships within Durham. He said that the government of Durham has a good working relationship with the regions private and public entities, which has allowed for effective communication between the government and business community. Additionally, Bell went on to champion the economic successes Durham has experienced over the last several years such as the construction of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and the American Tobacco Company.
However, despite these successes, Durham is still working through issues of poverty and striving to provide more affordable housing to community members. “While we’ve had a lot of successes in our community, we still have issues we need to work out,” said Bell.
In closing, Mayor Bell concluded his discussion with a question from Bryan K. Stephens, President and CEO, Hampton Roads Chamber, about the role elected officials play in regional collaboration. Bell said that Durham recently worked regionally with Raleigh, the Triangle and Wake County officials to create a regional rail system connecting Durham, Wake County and the surrounding areas. Although the measure to create a rail system failed, Bell said that the effort itself was a practice of regionalism between elected officials.
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).