RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Entrepreneurial and technology associations are moving closer to speaking with one collective voice.

The North Carolina Technology Association and two rapidly growing groups — the Business Innovation and Growth (BIG) Council in Charlotte and the Blue Ridge Entrepreneurial Council — are forming a strategic partnership to not only pool resources and share benefits but to also exercise more clout on public policy issues such as workforce education and economic development.

“These groups are led by great people who are pushing the edge and are leaders in their communities,” said NCTA Chief Executive Officer Joan Myers about BIG and BREC. “We’re looking forward to talking more about how we can help each other and bring them into the fold.”

The BIG Council is led by Terry Thorson Cox, who was recruited to the post in May of 2003. Thorson served as director of client relations and marketing for Dresdner RCM Global Investors in San Francisco before joining the Metrolina Entrepreneurial Council. Cox has led the group through a name change and reorganization.

Jim Roberts, a former entrepreneur in Charlotte, was recruited by the economic group Advantage West to help create the BREC.

“Terry and Jim are just great, great people,” Myers said.

Members in the organizations are certainly not strangers to each other. For example, BIG and NCTA collaborate on the Top Tech Conference in Charlotte. BIG has also been very supportive of some legislative efforts led by the NCTA, such as proposed stock capital gains exclusion legislation for company founders, Cox told Local Tech Wire.

A Collaboration To ‘Help Fuel’ Growth’

Cox and Roberts are both enthusiastic about the new relationship, which will entitle their members to certain discounts and memberships from NCTA, each told LTW.

“With this relationship, our tech company members who have 50 employees or less will receive a complimentary membership in NCTA,” Cox said. “Most of our companies that fall in that range cannot afford a NCTA membership in addition to BIG, Chamber, and other local member dues.

“This is an avenue for our emerging companies in Charlotte to become involved in statewide initiatives that are of value to their industry and growth,” she added. “And, NCTA brings access to services, programs, and key leaders nationally, that our members would not otherwise have access to.

“Bottom line, it’s a collaboration to help fuel entrepreneurial growth on a statewide basis.”

Roberts, who is in the midst of organizing a major venture capital conference for later this year, said the alliance fits BREC’s mission.

“BREC is looking for ways to connect our entrepreneurs to partners and decision makers from across the state,” he explained. “There is real progress in our technology and entrepreneurial infrastructure and getting NCTA involved in the mountain area will help us tremendously. Three of our companies were chosen for the NCTA Top Tech Conference this year and I think that is proof of their recognition of our progress.

“NCTA is well respected and has been helpful in passing legislation such as extending the Qualified Business Venture Tax Credit that will help entrepreneurs raise capital throughout the state.”

CED Chief Likes Move

NCTA has not yet talked with the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, the state’s largest entrepreneurial organization with more than 4,000 members, about some sort of formalized alliance, Myers said. But she didn’t rule that out, noting the new alliances are “a pilot” and “we want to see this succeed and get the kinks out.”

Monica Doss, who runs CED, is growing that organization as well. It recently merged with the Coastal Entrepreneurial Council. Doss told LTW she liked the idea of organizations working closer together.

“Information technology companies throughout the state can benefit from the IT industry advocacy efforts of NCTA, so these free memberships are a great way to encourage companies outside of the Triangle to become more aware of important legislative issues,” she said. “North Carolina is unique in having organizations that specialize in the nuanced needs of different technology industries like NCTA for information technology, NCBIO for life sciences, as well as CED, PTEN, and BIG to focus on translating great technology innovation of all sorts into globally competitive companies. No other state has this wealth of resources.

“As all of North Carolina’s regions increase our innovation capacity, our task is to work together and focus our energies on the companies and innovators who can propel North Carolina to the top.”

NCTA has undergone some changes this year itself, including a name change from the North Carolina Electronics and Information Technology Association. NCTA includes many of the state’s largest technology-related firms.

A ‘Shared Culture’

Joe Freddoso, the site executive for Cisco in RTP and NCTA’s board chairman, sees the groups as having a shared culture.

“Both BIG and BREC are outstanding organizations that have gained stellar reputations in their respective regions,” Freddoso told LTW. “There is a strong culture of commitment to member services that is common between BIG, BREC and NCTA.

“We believe that the missions of the organizations are highly complementary. BIG and BREC focus on high growth companies in emerging markets and deliver services that allow these companies to scale and grow. NCTA works in the public policy arena to help to ensure that the policy environment is supportive of the growth of these organizations. NCTA also works with organizations like BIG and BREC to understand the areas of workforce and technical competence in these various regions and then engages in market development to explore expansion of market opportunities in these areas of competency. NCTA’s focus on Defense and Security Technologies and bringing opportunities to NC companies is evidence of this.

This is a great opportunity for partnership and hopefully will grow membership for all three organizations.”