Debbie Shannon, Director and Program Manager for the “Innovate Catawba” Project spoke to Hickory Rotary today. What is Innovate Catawba? Transforming Catawba’s economy by… Reinventing… Entrepreneurship… Building our Future by Inspiring our Young People, our Workforce, and our Leaders… and Sharing our Results with the World.
Innovate Catawba is a local initiative with the goal of reducing the loss of the area’s young people to other larger communities by offering job opportunities that offer exciting and fulfilling work, and pay competitive wages. In addition the area should attract workers and job opportunities by offering better employment opportunities.
What do we want to be? “A GROWING PLACE WITH MORE JOBS”
These were the primary surveyed responses by the Community in the development of a unified Vision:
- A more skilled & better educated workforce
- Connectivity between students & future work
- More 25-44 year olds choosing to live & work in Catawba County
- Broadened & strengthened local leadership
- Better external marketing & an enhanced image
- More & better arts & recreational opportunities
- Improved urban places with less vacant & boarded up buildings
- More entrepreneurs contributing to job growth
- Improved infrastructure, including broadband
- Important Target Sectors: IT, Energy, Healthcare
Innovate Catawba is divided into six work-groups:
- Inspiring: The objective is to develop Community Assets that appeal to the young of all ages, especially people 20-44 years old, to consider the County as an appealing location for living, working & playing. The process includes further developing Hickory’s “Inspiring Spaces” program to roll-out as a County-wide program that every municipality & the County is encouraged to accomplish according to their opportunities;
- Reinventing: The objective is to improve the aesthetics & economic development potential of our community by reinventing spaces through programs that promote legacy structure demolition or renovation. The process includes developing a pilot program to profile existing candidates for reinventing, to remove barriers for landowners to consider building removal & to develop public policy support for these actions.
- Building: The objective is to catalyze job growth in our community by developing a public/private initiative to examine, promote & build competitively priced buildings & sites suitable for business location & job growth. The process includes developing a financially sustainable framework supported by local governments that encourages landowners, contractors & developers to build speculative manufacturing & other buildings at competitive pricing.
- Entrepreneurs: The objective is to enhance the County’s offerings for the development of small businesses, to create an environment attractive to entrepreneurs & to build the talent needed to grow creative, innovative enterprises. The process includes analysis & identification of strengths, competencies & best practices to build upon.
- Workforce: The objective is to develop a multi-faceted approach to connect the various elements of current & future workforce to jobs in Catawba County. The processes includes leveraging existing initiatives & create a clear pathway to employment for employers through marketing strategies, student internship opportunities, singular portals for connectivity & training/education programming that is relevant to business & industry.
- Leading: The objective is to identify, expand & train leaders who understand the need to up-learn & function at a higher level of complexity & competence. A new type of leadership at all levels, that emphasizes new abilities, skills & knowledge that support individual, organizational, & community transformation through innovation. The process includes the development of a multi-level leadership program developing leadership for all levels from new entrants to mentoring to CEO Peer-to-Peer networking.