Editor’s note: Charlotte Beat is a regular feature on Wednesdays.Terry Thorson doesn’t have to think very long when asked what she hopes to accomplish as the new executive director of the Metrolina Entrepreneurial Council (MEC).

“To make a difference in the entrepreneurial community here,” she says. “I feel passionate about it.”

Thorson, 44, was named to the job last week after a national search that attracted 250 candidates. She starts on the job May 1.

Thorson’s hiring is a major first step as the MEC embarks on a focused effort to clarify its role and purpose in Charlotte’s business community. Says Grant Thornton’s Mike McGuire, who headed the search committee that hired Thorson: “We think the MEC can be an umbrella organization for that serves the needs of the entrepreneurs in the Charlotte region in a manner similar to what the Arts and Science Council has been to the arts and sciences and Charlotte Center City Partners has been to the development of uptown Charlotte.

“We don’t think we’re meeting the needs of the entrepreneurial community. There were gaps, and the gaps were confirmed by the creation of Convergence, firstround.org, the various angel networks and the activities of the Ben Craig Center at UNC Charlotte. We want the organization to be recognized as a leader in the entrepreneur community in the Charlotte region in a fashion similar to what the CED has accomplished in the Triangle.”

Firstround.org went dormant last year when its founder, Jim Roberts, left for Asheville, and Convergence recently merged with the MEC. Two former Convergence board members, Winn Maddrey and Scott Mehler, served on the search committee. MEC currently has about 450 members.

“EMT — education, mentoring and training — that’s what it’s all about,” adds Ashe Lockhart, an attorney in Charlotte who has served as the interim executive director since January.

Capital campaign to begin soon

Thorson says her first task will be developing a strategic plan for the next three to five years. To help her do that, she says, “I’ll talk to as many members and sponsors as I can to see where they want the organization to go.”

The board has already asked Thorson to begin a capital campaign in the next three to six months. “It won’t be a campaign to fund an endowment or a major new initiative,” Lockhart explains. “It’ll be more to create a more predictable budget year to year.” For example, he says, rather than seeking annual sponsors, the group will look for three-year pledges from sponsors — and hopefully at higher levels of support.

No stranger to Charlotte

Thorson, who is moving to Charlotte from San Francisco, is no stranger to the Charlotte area. He parents have lived in Concord for the last 12 years, and she already owns a house in Charlotte’s Dilworth neighborhood. She previously served in several positions with Dresdner RCM Global Investors and worked for Barclays Global Investors, Frame Technology Corporation and KPMG, plus was a small business owner. She was also president of the board of a nonprofit group. She is a Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia, with a BBA in accounting.

“This job combines the experiences of my entire work life,” Thorson says. “It’s allowing me to run a nonprofit, but stay in touch with the business world. It’s a perfect job for me.”

‘Thinking Creatively’ on April 24

When Thorson told people she was looking for a job in North Carolina that was involved with small business, they told her to look in Raleigh, not Charlotte. “The perception out there is that Charlotte is a banking town,” she says.

That reputation has certainly been a good thing for the Queen City, but many recognize that it has led to a lack of support and nurturing of its creative capital. To help get that going, UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute is sponsoring on April 24 a day-long symposium, ‘Thinking Creatively for Our Economic Future!’ It will be hosted by Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class. For more information and to register: www.uncc.edu/urbanist/

InfoTech approaches

Coming up Thursday, May 1, is the InfoVision TechExpo 2003, at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart, 8 a.m. — 4 p.m. It is one of the most comprehensive IT shows for small-to-medium sized businesses in the area and includes demos and information on all the latest software. The event is being sponsored by Charlotte-based InfoVision, The Business Journal and Microsoft.

MEC: www.mec.org