North Carolina after the Pandemic: A Model for Creating a Successful Business Ecosystem for All
Using a place-based approach to foster an inclusive entrepreneurship and small business ecosystem
White Paper written by James H. Johnson Jr., Jeanne Milliken Bonds, and Wendell M. Davis
Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise
Kenan-Flagler Business School
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
As a magnet for both population and employment growth, North Carolina has a propitious opportunity to create an inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial and small business ecosystem to support the state’s newfound prosperity. Leveraging qualitative insights from key informant interviews with government officials, community leaders, and minority entrepreneurs in one of the state’s hot spots for growth, we outline the major parameters of a place-based approach to creating an inclusive entrepreneurship and small business ecosystem that generates shared prosperity, eliminating in the process longstanding inequities in community economic development in the state.
North Carolina: A State on the Rise
North Carolina has emerged as one the nation’s premier destinations for both population growth and business development. The gains are impressive both in terms of talent and business recruitment.
During the first 15 months of the pandemic, according to post-2020 Census population estimates, North Carolina was the nation’s fourth most attractive migration destination. An estimated 253 net newcomers arrived in the state daily between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2021. Notably, this was a sharp increase over the 190 net newcomers who arrived in the state each day between 2010 and 2020. Three fourths of the newcomers are people of color—African American, Asian, Hispanic, and mixed race—creating a diverse pool of talent to propel the state’s economy forward in the years ahead.
At the same time, North Carolina has earned the reputation as the best place in the country to do business—underscored by recent business recruitment successes across multiple economic sectors. Seven major firms—Apple, Boom Sonic, Federal Express, Google, Toyota, VinFast, and Wolfspeed—have agreed to build new facilities in the state, bringing in the process an estimated 18,000 new jobs to the state by 2030.
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About the Authors
James H. Johnson, Jr. is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship in the Kenan-Flagler Business School and Director of the Urban Investment Strategies Center in the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Jeanne Milliken Bonds is a Professor of the Practice, Impact Investment and Sustainable Finance in the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Department of Public Policy at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Wendell M. Davis is a retired chief executive officer from local government and former chief financial officer in higher education. He is currently the managing principal and owner of Sixty-Revolutions (SR/365) LLC, a robust management consulting practice focused on helping organizations develop best practices.
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