Editor’s note: Thom Ruhe is CEO of the NC IDEA Foundation, whichis focused on economic development across North Carolina.

DURHAM – Recently, NC IDEA had the great privilege of hosting an unprecedented gathering of North Carolina’s entrepreneurial support community.

The 2019 Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Summit brought together 471 representatives from ESOs, Universities, Community Colleges, K12 schools, SBTDCs, SBCs, city/county/state government, and economic development organizations from across the state — all energized to explore entrepreneurial economic development. 

Over the course of two days, we discussed how to invest in the entrepreneurial potential of all our citizens. A distinguished line-up of over 50 speakers inspired us to infuse education with entrepreneurship. We explored the data and discussed the implications for policies that encourage entrepreneurship and stressed the value of inclusive growth. Speaker after speaker demonstrated the power of entrepreneurship.

NC averages 4.4 new startups per 1,000 residents, but urban counties still dominate

We polled our attendees for their biggest takeaways from the Summit and there were two themes: a new appreciation for the value of an education that promotes an entrepreneurial mindset, and the realization that distressed communities are disconnected communities.

Our biggest takeaway from the Summit? With so many passionate and committed people investing in the entrepreneurial potential of our citizens, North Carolina’s future is bright. We will know the Summit was a success when we see new connections turn into collaborative partnerships and a boost in entrepreneurial activity across the entire state.

Now the hard work begins. We (collectively) need to keep the energy and focus on engaging the entire state through entrepreneurship. And if we are successful doing that, next year we will have many promising things to celebrate.

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