Mission Complete: Southeast Converts to Private Model

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On June 30th of this year, business and local government leaders in Southeastern North Carolina completed the conversion of the regional economic development entity from a state-governed commission to a private non-profit corporation. The Southeastern Partnership now directs the regional marketing and economic development activities formerly conducted by North Carolina’s Southeast Commission, which was created by the N.C. General Assembly in 1994.

 “We have assembled a very strong group of private and county investors who are committed to economic growth and job creation in southeastern North Carolina,” says Jeff Etheridge, chairman of The Southeastern Partnership. The new organizational structure preserves, and even grows, the collaborative model that aggregates economic assets across county-lines, globally marketing them under a unified regional brand. “Given the complexities of today’s business world, most of our communities don’t have the luxury of going it alone,” says Etheridge, a resident of Columbus County

 The region, which now stretches across 13 counties, will continue marketing itself under the brand “North Carolina’s Southeast.”

 Two years ago, Southeast leaders quietly began exploring new organizational models for regional economic development. They found the nation’s most successful organizations drew funding and leadership from private businesses and county governments. “We had the foresight to see that a more investor-driven business model was necessary,” Etheridge says.

 County and private investors will take part in the Partnership’s governance. Its newly constituted board began meeting last year as the work of the state-created Commission winded down. At the same time, three new counties – Anson, Duplin and Montgomery – have joined the Southeast. “We’ve been officially with the Southeast since last November,” Ashley Sherrill Cagle, director of the Montgomery County Economic Development Commission. “In that time, we’ve been more than impressed with the way the Southeast operates and the way they engage their counties.”

 Partnership officials also have proposed a structured collaborative relationship with the state’s new lead marketing entity, the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC), that will further benefit the region.