The “Two Americas” theme that has become the central focus of the Democratic primaries will receive significant attention at the upcoming Emerging Issues Forum, Feb. 9-10 in Raleigh.

The second day of the forum will focus on effective responses to the global economic changes that threaten to divide Americans and North Carolinians into those who carry the burden of change and those who benefit from it.

“While North Carolina is slowly recovering from the economic downturn of the last few years, the state is still on the cusp of becoming two very different North Carolinas,” says former Gov. Jim Hunt, chairman of the Institute for Emerging Issues. “Areas of our state that have depended on textile and furniture manufacturing are struggling as these jobs are disappearing.”

At the forum, Bob Nash of ShoreBank Corporation in Chicago and Christine Hemrick of Cisco Systems will head a special program on “Bridging New Divides in the Global Economy.” This program will focus on new private-sector responses to inequality.

Nash, a former undersecretary of agriculture for Small Community and Rural Development, is vice president of ShoreBank, the country’s first and largest community development bank, with locations in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Washington state. He will focus on how financial institutions can provide better access to capital for underserved communities.

Hemrick is vice president for technology policy and consulting engineering for Cisco Systems in California. A leading expert in information and communications technologies, with a specific emphasis on building technology resources for the underserved, she will stress the importance of public-private partnerships in reducing inequality in the U.S. and abroad.

The forum also features a keynote address by Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell on revitalizing traditional industries and ensuring that the entire state benefits from emerging industries.

Other speakers who will address regional solutions to uneven economic development include: Mario Rubert, a representative from the City of Barcleona in Spain, who has developed innovative programs to bolster job creation and neighborhood revitalization; Mac Holladay, an economic development consultant who helps communities across the Southeast improve their economic health; and Rebecca Anderson, executive director of HandMade in America, which has led communities in developing thriving economies by harnessing existing assets.

The 19th annual forum will focus on successful responses to the challenges created by today’s more open world markets, highlighting four distinct areas: global trade; the merging of new and old industries; regional solutions to economic dislocation; and reducing inequality.

The Emerging Issues Forum is a program of the Institute for Emerging Issues and was started in 1985 by Hunt. The state’s premier public policy conference, the forum annually attracts nearly 1,000 corporate chiefs, legislators, university presidents, journalists, scientists and educators from around North Carolina, the region and the nation.

To register or for additional information, visit the forum’s Web site at www.emergingissues.org , or contact the IEI office at 919/515-7741.