May Program Recap: Economic Growth Beyond the Triangle: A Panel Discussion

An ever-changing landscape.  Those are the three words I would use to describe Tuesday’s exciting year-end SMPS program on: Economic Growth Beyond the Triangle: A Panel Discussion. Moderated by the talented Kellie Ford of S&ME, the panel was comprised of three top leaders from the Triangle’s surrounding communities: Alyssa Byrd – President of Chatham Economic Development Corporation, Sarah Gaskill – President of the Morrisville Chamber of Commerce and Chris Johnson – Director of Johnston County Economic Development. The main take away is that while all three municipalities and communities are thriving, each faces unique challenges and opportunities as it pertains to growth.

Chatham County was described as having that “home” feeling. When asked how Chatham County strives to maintain its rural feel – Alyssa shared the County’s implementation of a smart land plan, which drives growth. It wasn’t until 2016 that much of Chatham County was unzoned. The growth outlook is positive as the county has (2) “mega sites” that will pave the way for future opportunities. This land availability is the opposite of Morrisville where the town only has 400 acres of land left to develop.

Sarah described Morrisville as Cosmopolitan but friendly – diverse in age, ethnicity and industry. When asked about their most significant challenges for recruiting companies to their town, Sarah stressed the importance of overall connectivity and cautioned if zoning is not right, or if there is not the right product, they may not be able to accommodate a company’s project.

Contrary to the other two areas, Johnston County has a thriving agriculture industry generating more than $300M annually. They also have access to (3) major interstate’s and are engaged in the mountains to sea trail.

Chatham County and the Town of Morrisville both share a common housing trend – most of the population do not live where they work. Sarah shared that despite Morrisville having one of the highest earned income zip codes in the State, work-force housing is simply not there. The majority of most people who work in the Town of Morrisville cannot afford to live there. Likewise, Chatham County housing also has a middle-income challenge. Contrary – Chris shared that there are currently 12,000 lots available in and that approximately 70% of those that move into Johnston County come from Wake County.

A common response for engaging institutions while developing the workforce all focused on excitement for education. Morrisville is home to Wake Tech Community College’s RTP campus where they have completed the 1st of 10 buildings. Trust me when I say, in a room full of A/E/C professionals – this is always exciting to hear. Chris shared his passion for minimizing the disconnect between middle and high schools through Johnston County’s JOCO WORKS program for 8th graders. By attending JOCO WORKS, students will learn how to begin building a meaningful career at the beginning of high school. Chatham County collaborates with institutions through the Chatham County Promise. Through this program, all eligible Chatham County residents who graduate from a public high school (including charter schools) for the years 2019 – 2022 will be guaranteed up to two years of FREE in-state tuition and required fees at Central Carolina Community College.

Post authored by Valerie Bono, Senior Marketing Manager, LeChase Construction 

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