From contender to become the next CEO of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership to deciding instead to become an entrepreneur, Lee Anne Nance has left the RTRP scrambling to fill a leadership void.

In an exclusive Q&A with WRAL TechWire, Nance discusses her reasoning that most likely means a delay in the latest strategic plan being developed by the partnership. Longtime CEO Charles Hayes is retiring. Nance – Hayes’ deputy who was promoted to COO to help prepare for the Hayes transition after two decades of leadership – announced Friday that she is leaving.

A NCRP spokesperson said Nance’s decision will mean a delay in the plan, which was scheduled to be released this month.

“I’m sitting on my porch watching the sunset,” Nance told The Skinny. “The analogy is not lost on me.”

  • Why did you decide to do this? Why do it now?

I’ve been contemplating starting a consulting practice for the past six to 12 months, and with RTRP going through a transition, I thought it would be a good time for me and the organization to make that change now.

  • Did you pursue the CEO job internally?

I talked with the leadership about the possibility of pursuing that role as soon as Charles retired, and they were kind enough to give me some time to make a decision.

After much contemplation and soul searching, I decided to pursue my own business.

This was not an easy decision as I am passionate about RTRP and the value it creates for the region and state, but I am pleased that I can stay involved with RTRP and RTCC as a consultant.

  • What makes you want to be an entrepreneur?

I like diversity in my work and I am happiest when I have lots of balls in the air.

Being a consultant will enable me to work on lots of different projects with many different people all at the same time! I look forward to continuing to work with my current partners and finding some new ones.

I have a real passion for rural economic development, and this will give me an opportunity to dig in and help these communities find their unique pathways in creating jobs and investment.

  • What’s your best memory of RTRP work, and why?

Nothing feels better than knowing that you played a small role in helping to create economic opportunity for the citizens you serve. Even though I am fortunate to serve a region where we have frequent announcements, I feel exhilarated by every announcement because I know that a job can change your life and the lives of those you love.

And, of course, I am pleased to have been a part of starting the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC). Cleantech is the third wave of job creation and innovation in the Research Triangle Region.

Just like information technology and life sciences, our focus on cleantech will lead to job creation and investment as well as the development of transformational technology that will change the way the world engages energy, water and transportation. Helping to launch an industry-led organization whose focus is to accelerate our strengths in cleantech has been fun and rewarding!

  • Any regrets?

When you are an economic developer, there’s never enough time in the day to do all that you can know could be done!

I wish I could have gone on every trip; accepted every speaking engagement; met with every site selection consultant; attended every tradeshow and met every company in the world to tell them why the Research Triangle Region and the State of North Carolina is the best place to locate and grow a business. In North Carolina, we stand on the shoulders of great leadership.

We inherited a legacy of visionary leaders who wanted an amazing future for North Carolina. Economic developers are servant leaders who want to do their part to make sure the next generation says the same of them. if you take that seriously, you never rest.

Bio: Lee Anne B. Nance

Lee Anne Nance serves as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at the Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP), where she manages implementation of the region’s strategic growth plan as well as regional marketing and branding activities. Before assuming the role of COO in 2015, Lee Anne served as Executive Vice President and as the founding director of the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC), a program of RTRP.

Prior to joining RTRP in 2009, she worked with the Harnett County Economic Development Commission for eight years, serving as the Marketing Director for two years and the Economic Development Director for six. During her tenure, Harnett County designed and implemented a national marketing and imaging campaign and acquired and developed three certified industrial parks, two industrial facilities, a science and technology campus, a river park and a 1040-acre land trust.

Nance began her career as a software analyst with the research and development division of Citicorp, where she received the Citicorp Service Excellence Award for outstanding performance. She worked as the Marketing Communications Director of the Telecommunications Division of Raychem Corporation and also was the Marketing and Strategy Officer of Service Design Associates, Inc., an enterprise software development firm.

Nance received her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Economics from North Carolina State University, where she was inducted into the Omicron Delta Epsilon Honor Fraternity in recognition of high scholastic achievement in the field of economics.

Source: RTRP