Consulting Firms Will Partner in Southeast Strategic Economic Analysis


Analysis Will Assess Regional Economic Opportunities

November 14, 2019 (Elizabethtown, N.C.) Two marquee names in economic development consulting have joined forces with North Carolina’s Southeast to analyze job-creation opportunities in the Southeast Region as part of a strategic assessment being supported by the U.S. Economic Development Administration (US EDA). Raleigh-based Economic Leadership LLC and Creative Economic Development Consulting LLC (Creative EDC), headquartered in Elkin, N.C., will partner in a study of the region’s economy that will include economic trends, workforce dynamics, policy impacts, and education connectivity. At the heart of the strategy will be sharpening the focus on existing and emerging business and industry sectors that align best with Southeastern North Carolina’s economic assets.  

The research initiative will examine trends at the regional, micro-region and even local level, explains Ted Abernathy, founder and managing partner at Economic Leadership LLC.  “One of our goals is to provide actionable intelligence to all the Southeast’s stakeholders,” he says. “That makes it more nuanced and harder.” The project team will examine, for example, supply-chain intersections and look for opportunities for the region to fill gaps. “We’re going to anticipate future business opportunities that will lead to more success for the region,” says Abernathy, an economic development veteran whose career has included leadership positions at Research Triangle Regional Partnership, the Southern Growth Policies Board and the City of Durham. After the assessment by Abernathy and his team, Creative EDC will provide insight and recommendations on specific marketing strategies. “Their work will center on how the Southeast goes to market,” Abernathy says.

Creative EDC was formed in 2012 and is led by Crystal Morphis, a longtime economic development thought leader who has consulted across North Carolina and the southern U.S. The firm has previously assisted North Carolina’s Southeast with marketing, digital media and marketing research. “Though we’ve been colleagues and friends for years, Crystal and I have never actually had the chance to work on a specific project together,” says Abernathy.

The initiative, known as “Regional Business & Industry Sector Analysis,” kicked off on October 23. Consultants hope to finalize and present their findings next spring. The study is being conducted as part of a $148,000 grant NC’s Southeast secured from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. “We’re really excited about having the full line-up of these two highly respected consulting firms join us in this pivotal strategic initiative,” says Steve Yost, president and CEO of NC Southeast. “Taken alone, Ted and Crystal’s teams are both A-listers. Having them come together and collaborate on behalf of our region tells us a lot about the opportunities they see ahead for the Southeast once the appropriate strategies and targets are set.”

A public-private partnership headquartered in Elizabethtown, N.C., North Carolina’s Southeast links business leaders with county governments in seeking to “provide strong economic development leadership in southeastern North Carolina through innovative marketing and collaborative regional initiatives that will support the creation of new jobs, generate capital investment and secure new business locations.” Member counties include Anson, Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Hoke, Lenoir, Montgomery, New Hanover, Moore, Onslow, Pender, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland and Wayne. For additional information, visit