Up & Coming Weekly

March 26, 2019

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

Issue link: http://www.epageflip.net/i/1096807

Contents of this Issue


Page 15 of 32

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM MARCH 27-APRIL 2, 2019 UCW 15 STEPHANIE CRIDER, Associate Publisher. COMMENTS? Editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. tions raising over a quarter-million dollars toward developing a communitywide brand that we all can use and benefit from. is is part of setting a joint vision for this community and working toward it as we look at what is our best tomorrow for our citizens and ask ourselves how we can effectively convey that internally and externally. I think we do look at that on the workforce develop- ment side. … How do we attract talent? How do we retain talent? And how do we grow talent? And that is where we're looking at creative things around recogniz- ing that technology and rapid innovation will be the two major drivers of tomorrow's economy. And so we are looking at ways to increase broadband access and ex- tend broadband here. We are looking at ways to bring, keep and grow innovative companies and to attract next-generation technology firms to our community. We have got to ensure that all of our children have access to tomorrow's economy, which will be decided by their level of engagement with technology. You are either integrated into the digital economy or you will be left behind, and we're working hard on that to make sure no one gets left behind. I think the one thing we know for certain is that tomorrow's workplace will evolve exponentially more rapidly. … e No. 1 skill that the next generation worker will need will be the ability to continually learn and adapt to a changing world. We have another initiative going on with the work- force development board that I am co-chair of. It is a next-generation sector partnership. ... We're work- ing with … employers to identify their talent needs multiple years in advance, so that we can work to train up our people to fill those jobs well in advance of those vacancies getting here. Whether you are truck driving or you're working with our utility providers, the graying of the workforce is real. And those are opportunities for our citizens today and tomorrow to have gainful employment versus recruiting new talent to fill that from outside. UCW: inking about the future sounds like a fun part of your job. Van Geons: I enjoy it. With SEGRA coming into town and PWC's dark fiber and us launching e Core, which you can check out at www.corefayetteville.com, I am optimistic. I believe we need to be an innovation corridor. Sen. Kirk deViere and Rep. John Szoka have both supported this. Between what happens in the private sector and Fayetteville State University, Fayetteville Technical Community College, Fort Bragg and Methodist Uni- versity, we have the potential to be a leader in applied innovation — from drones to cyber to robotics to game learning. We have all of those things happening here in our community today. We also need to tell our story better internally and externally, and that's part of the branding initiative we are working on. UCW: How do you lay the groundwork for attracting new businesses? Van Geons: Before the end of the month, we will cross the 1,000-job mark and around $65 million dol- lars in total investment through our projects since I've been here, which is 26 months. I think that's a real positive start for us when you talk about results, but we can have exponentially more hap- pening. And we want more. So, how do we do that? Part of it is having sites and buildings. … We work with the state and with industrial brokers around the southeast and promote our community at events and trade shows. We work with our existing industry to help them help us find out about customers or suppliers that would be interested in being here. UCW: What is your dream for Fayetteville and Cumberland County, and do you think we can pull it off? Van Geons: I believe we can be the community where all our citizens can build a better economic future for themselves and, more importantly, for the next generation. We can be a place where generational equity is built, meaning the next generation has a bet- ter tomorrow than we did — regardless of how they came to Fayetteville. UCW: What do you see as this community's biggest challenge as far as economic development? Van Geons: I think we need to continue to push for- ward. One of the most transformative things we could do is to find ways to help those who have suffered from chronic unemployment to get back in the workforce. We are doing this with things like the expungement clinics and by developing and implementing training programs that are accessible and yield direct employ- ment for people. We have employers looking for work- ers. We also have people looking for work — but when they don't have the skills, the jobs go unfilled. We need to confront the issues we face. Whether it is the opioid crisis or children not succeeding in school, it is about helping build a path for people who have been chronically unemployed. at will change so much of our economic landscape. We need to continue to focus on economic develop- ment. And it will take years, not days. We need to have faith in our leadership. at's a start. We are especially grateful for support we receive from the city, the county and our board. Anything good we are accomplishing is because of them and our private sector partners.

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Up & Coming Weekly - March 26, 2019