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A delegation of 85 business and civic leaders hopped a chartered flight to Raleigh last Wednesday afternoon for the Chamber’s 7th annual Metro Leadership Visit. The ensuing 48 hours were jam-packed.
- We visited the North Hills district, a once-dying suburban mall that has been transformed over a decade into a live/work/play center with dining, hotels, boutique shops and more than 700,000 square feet of office space with more under construction.
- We learned that Raleigh changed course from a light rail to bus rapid transit (BRT) and is at roughly the same spot in the funding and permitting process for their four-line system as the Charleston Region is on the 23-mile Low Country Rapid Transit line.
- We took in the downtown skyline from the ninth-floor deck of The Dillion, a 17 story parking tower and office building that serves their new Union Station (central transfer point for their BRT lines) and anchors the rapidly redeveloping Warehouse District.
- We visited the Vernon Malone College and Career Academy High School where all 400 students are dual-enrolled in high-demand career programs with Wake Technical College including HVAC, welding, bio-pharma and gaming development. They had a 100% graduation rate last year.
- We toured NC State University’s Centennial Campus, which has generated more than 135 startup companies, 595 new products and a thousand patents in its 34-year history.
The ideas and best practices we learned could fill pages, but one theme resonated: PARTNERSHIPS
Companies, investors, governments and education institutions – throughout the program nearly every speaker sharing their story talked about their allies in another sector that made success possible.
Raleigh is clearly a community where individuals and institutions believe that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts… only if the parts collaborate. For example:
- The newly reimagined North Hills district is due primarily to a visionary developer with a long-arc plan and an appetite for calculated risk deploying capital. But the story also includes a city willing to facilitate redevelopment with synthetic TIFs and flexible zoning.
- The Dillon tower in the Warehouse District is a public-private building where local government contributed funds they would have spent on parking lots of Union Station in a project that is now a new landmark for the city.
- Vernon Malone High School is housed in an old bottling plant that was purchased by Wake County Government and gifted to the school district, which operates it jointly under an MOU with Wake Tech and relies on the business community to execute its programs.
- Centennial Campus is the result of a Governor’s vision for a new kind of education environment anchored by co-located employers from the public (NSA, USDA) and private (IBM, Merck, Hanes) sectors. By the way, the campus also houses a magnet public high school and a Wake Tech bio-manufacturing center.
Metro Leadership Visit attendees brought back a lot from Raleigh, but if only one thing sticks, I hope it is the partnership ethos that is driving Raleigh’s success.
At the end of the trip, we announced that next year, we will be going to Salt Lake City, UT. Stay tuned for more details. After seeing how much we learned in Raleigh, I hope that you will be able to join us for next year’s Metro Leadership Visit.
Have a great weekend!
Senior Vice President of Advocacy