DURHAM – This week, the NC IDEA Foundation delivers its second NC IDEA Ecosystem Summit, in an entirely virtual event held Monday, Nov. 16 and Tuesday, Nov. 17 from 9 a.m.–12 p.m. each day.

“Entrepreneurs will lead the recovery from challenging times,” said Thom Ruhe, President and CEO of NC IDEA, in a video that opened the event.  “If we can find the courage to walk together in their direction.”

Ruhe, who told WRAL Tech Wire in May that throughout U.S. history, entrepreneurs lead communities and the country out of every recession, expanding opportunity in the job market and advancing innovation through the technology shifts that occur in challenging times.

“At a time when our nation seems divided, we can all focus on embracing a common catalyst of change,” said Ruhe.  “Because economic empowerment through entrepreneurship is nonpartisan.”  (See also: Economic empowerment through entrepreneurship can unite us).

The theme of this week’s summit is to rethink and reset economic development priorities through entrepreneurship for the state of North Carolina, said Ruhe, noting that this was an obvious selection given the larger economic climate and the new normal for companies, families, and individuals.

“So this week, we will rethink our priorities, our approach, and the impact of our work, specifically, we will rethink how we will support people who are starting companies during a pandemic that has strained so many, so much,” said Ruhe.

Additionally, Ruhe shared that the keynote sessions throughout the Summit—and some of the break out sessions—will focus on what diversity, equity, and inclusion can look like for communities when it is adequately prioritized.

According to Ruhe, 70 percent of all funding that NC IDEA has distributed through its NC IDEA MICRO Program has been awarded to entrepreneurs from rural areas, teams with at least one founder of color, teams that are female-led, and/or teams that are led by individuals from low-income backgrounds.

NC IDEA recently announced the formation of, and the selection of its 25 members, the North Carolina Black Entrepreneurship Council.  Under the Council’s guidance, the group will lead NC IDEA in its programmatic and grant making ambitions to address the challenges of Black entrepreneurship in North Carolina.  To do this, NC IDEA anticipates that the Council will identify, recommend, and support partners, grant recipients, and programs to serve the entrepreneurial aspirations and economic potential of North Carolina’s Black community.

“This new program could, and frankly, will be a national exemplar,” said Ruhe.  “And you’ll hear from members of the Council this week