RALEIGH – As a student growing up in Southport, N.C., Veronica Creech often traveled to Raleigh on school trips. They made an impression on her.

“I recognized that the people in Raleigh lead the state and that one day I would work there,” Creech told WRAL TechWire in an exclusive interview.

Veronica Creech

Following high school, she attended the University of North Carolina where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in science and social work and a master’s degree in social work. She also holds a master’s degree in public administration from Saint Louis University.

After stints outside her home state, Creech returned to Raleigh last month as the city’s economic development manager within its office of economic development and innovation. She was attracted to the position because of the city’s changing view of economic development.

“The biggest opportunity now, with the support of the mayor and council, is to define what economic development is for Raleigh,” said Creech.  “How does the work we are doing in economic development impact people? Are all of our residents benefiting from the businesses that are coming to our community?”

Creech was also attracted to the collaborative approach that extends beyond Raleigh to Wake County and the region, which she learned about during six interviews with the City of Raleigh and leaders from the nonprofit and political arenas.

“Wake County and its regional partners work together to foster a greater prosperity for all,” she said. “The community took this position very seriously and fostered in me a pride that this is a smart and collaborative place.”

Creech focused on similar issues at EveryoneOn, in Washington, D.C. where she served as chief programs officer. The national non-profit creates social and economic opportunities by connecting everyone to the internet.

“Veronica is a tremendous hire for the City of Raleigh,” City Manager Ruffin Hall said in announcing the hiring of Creech. “She has an excellent background as a team leader, in developing strategic partnerships, and navigating a complex and dynamic landscape. We are confident she will be a strong addition to our team and for the people of Raleigh. Veronica brings great experience in economic diversity and equity. She will help us overlay inclusion into our own strong economic development programs.”

Assistant City Manager Jim Greene had served as interim Economic Development Manager. Creech started her new role on June 11.

People-based economic development

For Creech, her 90-day goals will help the city better define its economic objectives.

“One of my goals is to help the city articulate a definition for equitable economic development,” said Creech. “That is the notion of expanding economic development from a place-based initiative to a people-based initiative.”

A key element of people-based economic development is the importance of childcare and education from birth through college.

“We have to start from birth,” said Creech. “Are our mothers having healthy children? Are our kids getting good prenatal care? Are our kids reading by third grade? Are our kids STEM and STEAM engaged by middle school and are our kids in high school graduating college career ready?”

The key challenge for the city, said Creech, is defining the role it plays in this continuum and ensuring that its commitment to people-based economic development is as strong as its focus on place-based.

Raleigh workforce development key to success

According to Creech, Raleigh is in an enviable position to address not only people-based economic development needs but also place-based needs that many relocating companies seek.

“One of the best things Raleigh has going for it is the diversity and inclusion that comes from our stellar educational institutions,” said Creech.

She also points out that as a mid-Atlantic city between New York and Florida, Raleigh attracts new businesses looking for a central location.

For future economic development efforts to be successful, however, Creech said that people will be the key.

“We need to make connections early, making sure we have a workforce that is trained and innovative,” said Creech.

What does this mean for Amazon and Apple, which have placed Raleigh and the Triangle on their lists of top locations for headquarters?

According to Creech, the city has submitted everything the companies have asked for and has not received any updates on the status of their decisions.