‘Opportunity Chatham’ event highlights regional efforts for economic success


PITTSBORO — Economic development officials boasted about Chatham County’s recent business successes and sounded hopeful as they looked toward the future.

The annual “Opportunity Chatham” event, sponsored by the Chatham Economic Development Corporation and held at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center on March 6, featured speakers sharing their excitement.

Speakers like Stan Kelly, the CEO of the Piedmont Triad Partnership and head spokesman for the Carolina Core, talked about the role that the center of North Carolina will play in the future of the state. The Carolina Core is an economic strategy that sells central North Carolina, including Chatham, as a suitable place for large corporations and industries to make their home in the state.

Kelly cited two engines of economic growth already in the state, the Triangle and the city of Charlotte, and said Chatham County and the surrounding area could be next.

“It’s important for the central part of North Carolina to be that third engine of growth,” he said. “We’re doing OK in the central part of North Carolina. We want to do better. We believe that a win for Chatham County is a win for Randolph County. This strategy has brought us together.”

CEDC President Alyssa Byrd followed Kelly, saying regional collaboration is vital to success. She pointed to projects like a wastewater line from the City of Sanford to the Moncure Megasite in Chatham.

“Each of these projects is going to be a regional game-changer, and that’s why it’s important that we continue to work as a region,” Byrd said. “Working as a region is important for economic success.”

Next, Chatham County Commission Chair Karen Howard said she was excited about the county’s growth and the plans in place to make it happen.

“There are wonderful things happening in and around Chatham,” she said. “We’re looking forward to seeing it grow into a place where people can live, work and play.”

The keynote speaker of the event was Ted Abernathy, managing partner of economic development consulting firm Economic Leadership. Abernathy said some of the challenges faced by cities and counties, including Chatham, in the future of economic development, can best be handled by nuanced responses. He referenced Plan Chatham, the county’s comprehensive land use plan, and said it “laid out some really specific economic development parameters.”

“There’s nuance to it,” Abernathy said of Chatham’s future. “You worry about fast growth in some places and no growth in other places. It takes nuanced responses in order to make good things happen.”

He added that Chatham is on the verge of seeing significant growth ­— projects like Chatham Park and a shift from agriculture to agriculture technology efforts make the county ripe.

“Opportunity takes resources,” Abernathy said. “You’ve got to have buildings and sites ready to go, and you’ve got to have the infrastructure in place. I think the opportunity (in Chatham) is unlimited.”

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.