The Centralina Economic Development District is responsible for developing and maintaining the Centralina region’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), a locally based, regionally driven economic development strategy to generate good jobs, diversify the economy and spur economic growth. This five-year strategy is intended to guide priorities for economic development and outlines an approach to coordinate growth and prosperity that builds on the region’s strengths and addresses weaknesses and barriers to future growth.

Vision

The greater Charlotte region collaborates to inclusively support businesses, innovators and individuals in reaching a prosperous and globally connected future.

The vision for the 2023-2028 Prosperity for All CEDS includes three goals, 15 recommendations and 58 near-term action items. The goals were developed through robust data analysis, examination of regional resilience and equity indicators, regional engagement and expertise from the CEDS Steering Committee and working groups. The goals and recommendations are cross-cutting, touching on a range of themes and issues – workforce, talent, education, physical and community infrastructure, entrepreneurship and innovation, business climate and economic competitiveness – and lay out a roadmap for how to advance our region’s economy towards a more inclusive, globally competitive and resilient state.

CEDS Implementation

Centralina is committed to coordinating regional stakeholders and partners in support of CEDS implementation. As the EDA-designated lead entity for the CEDS, our role is to steward this implementation by monitoring and evaluating progress including identifying when adjustments to the strategy are needed, highlighting regional success stories and leading certain action items where appropriate. We invite you to read more about our goals below or read the full plan to learn more about where the region is today and our plan to move towards prosperity for all.

Action Plan

In addition to the three goals, the plan includes 15 recommendations and 58 action items that touch on a range of issues including workforce, talent, education, physical and community infrastructure, entrepreneurship and innovation, business climate and economic competitiveness.

GOAL 1: ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

GOAL 2: INFRASTRUCTURE

GOAL 3: RESILIENCE

Goal one focuses on expanding economic opportunity for individuals, businesses and innovators across our region and includes five components: education and talent development to connect people to high-growth, high-wage careers; expanding and connecting initiatives to support small businesses and entrepreneurs; and improving the alignment of workforce systems and their alignment to economic development planning through robust regional collaboration.

Recommendation 1: Improve cross-regional coordination to align regional workforce and economic development systems.

1.1 Harmonize disparate labor market data collection and dissemination tools across various workforce and economic development groups in the region to provide consistent and clear data that aligns with industry clusters and niche sectors region wide.

1.2 Integrate career pathway information and related data to ensure alignment of message across the region and maximize resources that may be available outside of different workforce development service areas.

1.3 Assess the various job-seeking resources and career awareness tools used by workforce providers and educators across the region and engage leaders to discuss opportunities for collaboration.

1.4 Map workforce development resources and tools by county to identify opportunities for cross promotion by partners to improve navigation of available services by jobseekers, students, unemployed and under employed individuals.

1.5 Facilitate cross-workforce board area meetings and agenda items that promote information exchange to enhance collaboration and encourage partnerships across the Centralina region.

1.6 Examine opportunities to advocate for greater access to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act data that is accessible to select partners as non-aggregate geographic sub-data that remains secure and protective of sensitive data features.

Recommendation 2: Boost the talent pipeline through collaborative, innovative and person-centered approaches.

2.1 Network local business engagement leaders across various workforce and economic development organizations to collaborate on talent solutions to address businesses’ needs.

2.2 Support career counselors and educators understanding of the impact of AI/Automation on jobs in the region and the available resources to support job seekers with career transition or upskilling opportunities by capitalizing on technology like Centralina Career Pivot, Centralina Career Headlight and NCcareers.org.

2.3 Support the region’s growing older adult population (55+) by establishing an Experienced Workforce Initiative to re-engage the cohort and repurpose professional skills. 

2.4 Create a regional community of practice among educators, workforce development partners, industry and economic developers interested in collaborating to map, share and scale local practices that strengthen career pathways.

2.5 Through NCWorks NextGen, expand local on-ramps to education, training and employment for our disconnected youth and young adults and share innovative best practices region wide.

2.6 Support local educational attainment goals via county commitments to the myFutureNC.org initiative and share good practice across the region.

Recommendation 3: Expand local access to high-quality and affordable childcare and early childhood education region wide.

3.1 Support local efforts to engage business and industry in constructive conversations and creative solutions to address childcare needs and promote family-friendly workplace practices with Family Forward NC.

3.2 Support local governments with land use planning and best practice models for the safe siting of community early care facilities to meet employee needs.

3.3 Convene interested policy makers, elected officials, businesses and educators around universal pre-kindergarten and other policy solutions that support early childhood education.

Recommendation 4: Increase the regional availability and connectivity of entrepreneurship and small business supports.

4.1 Map resources by county to assist with partnership development and improve outreach to entrepreneurs and small business owners.

4.2 Promote connectivity within region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through linkage of entrepreneurial resources, support groups and state-wide organizations such as NC IDEA.

4.3 Support innovation through or by stage of development partnerships that assist with aligning resources to entrepreneurs though stage development (e.g., Small Business and Technology Development Center, NC Community College Small Business Centers).

4.4 Identify and engage pre-retirement small business owners to explore business transition strategies, including employee ownership.

4.5 Increase corporate involvement in the entrepreneurial ecosystem by establishing opportunities for entrepreneurs to become industry problem solvers.

Recommendation 5: Increase engagement of the region’s anchor institutions as key implementers in an inclusive economic growth strategy.

5.1 Support the regular leadership convening of community colleges, universities and health care institutions to build networks and explore project specific collaborations.

5.2 Develop an anchor institution strategy that identifies opportunities to enhance procurement, hiring, workforce development and other levels of inclusive growth.

Measuring Our Progress

The following two dashboards were selected to track the impact of the CEDS and the region’s progress towards expanding economic opportunity.

Educational Attainment

The educational attainment dashboard provides data on the highest level of reported education completed by individuals.

Micro-businesses

Micro-business (<10 employees) provides information on the number of small businesses with 10 or less employees

Our rural and mixed rural counties have not benefitted as robustly from pre-pandemic growth as other areas of the region. Within our urban and mixed urban counties there are pockets of poverty and distressed neighborhoods that also lack resources. This goal focuses on making strategic investments in high-quality, accessible and affordable infrastructure that supports the unique needs of our communities and inclusive regional growth.

Recommendation 1: Support implementation of completed regional mobility initiatives CONNECT Beyond and the Greater Charlotte Regional Freight Mobility Plan.

1.1 Develop an employer-based commuter program for major regional and community employment centers.

1.2 Expand the regional coalition of CONNECT Beyond champions to coordinate major cross-jurisdictional mobility investments and exploration of regional partnership models.

1.3 Improve transit system coordination (routes, scheduling, fares, etc.) across fixed-route and human services transportation and include equity considerations identified by the CONNECT Beyond transportation equity variables.

1.4 Support N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) planning process to develop a regional architecture for digital transportation communication, known as intelligent transportation system (ITS) and identify opportunities for economic developer or industry engagement where appropriate.

Recommendation 2: Increase coordination between transportation planning organizations Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs), transit agencies and local economic developers.

2.1 Develop stronger systems for regional coordination between MPO, RPO, transit agencies and county economic development leads through joint meetings, joint planning exercises and proactive dialogue to understand the infrastructure needs of major industry.

2.2 Evaluate opportunities for consortium applications to competitive infrastructure grants offered under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (e.g. MEGA, INFRA, RAISE) that address regional or cross-jurisdictional infrastructure needs.

2.3 Seek economic development leader advocacy for major transportation projects and support for competitive funding applications, even for projects that are located outside of a leader’s county.

2.4 Support the early participation of MPO and RPO staff in business recruitment and economic development strategy initiatives at the county and regional levels to consider how adjacent land uses, existing and planned transportation connections and employee health inform the siting of new employment centers.

2.5 Ensure all Centralina region MPOs and RPOs participate in the update of land use data that supports the region’s travel demand model and the forecast of employment and population distribution within each county.

Recommendation 3: Identify regional infrastructure and utility gaps impacting major employment sites and develop innovative, resilient solutions.

3.1 Work with counties to identify and map infrastructure and utility gaps for major employment sites (future office/industrial park locations, large land tracts, etc.).

3.2 Support local competitive funding applications for utility and infrastructure planning and investment while exploring opportunities for regional consortium opportunities where appropriate.

3.3 Support the inclusion of innovation and resilience in infrastructure investments and include consideration of the hazard mitigation strategies identified in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved Hazard Mitigation Plans and the Centralina Regional Resilience Collaboration (RRC) program. 

3.4 Work to incentivize green infrastructure solutions (nature-based stormwater solutions, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, multimodal transportation infrastructure such as bike racks, sidewalks, transit stops, etc.) in mixed-use, commercial and industrial site development.

Recommendation 4: Support local government land use planning and development decision making to align with the region’s growth framework (CONNECT Our Future).

4.1 Launch a regional housing dialogue to understand challenges to housing diversity, quality and affordability and opportunities for collaboration.

4.2 Identify and share models for compact industrial development and other solutions from high-growth regions with limited supply of industrial land.

4.3 Conduct outreach to examine local government regional growth framework implementation activities via adoption in their land use, zoning and comprehensive plan documents.

4.4 Promote the Prosperity Profile resilience, mobility and community urban-rural variables as a measure of equity conditions for the region.

Recommendation 5: Expand broadband and digital infrastructure across the region and within communities.

5.1 Support NCDOT initiatives to incorporate broadband into new and upgraded transportation facilities.

5.2 Develop a Digital Inclusion Plan for the region that supports the State of North Carolina’s Digital Divide Plan and leverages new resources offered in the American Rescue Plan Act and other related state and federal digital infrastructure funding opportunities.

5.3 Support local competitive funding applications for broadband and digital infrastructure planning and investment while exploring opportunities for regional consortium opportunities where appropriate.

Measuring Our Progress

The following two dashboards were selected to track the impact of the CEDS and the region’s progress towards building community supportive infrastructure.

Community Resilience

Resilience to a disaster or economic shock is determined by the vulnerabilities within a community. To measure these vulnerabilities and construct the community resilience estimates, the Census Bureau designed population estimates based on individual and household level risk factors. The resilience dashboard represents the percentage of people who experience three or more risk factors. The more risk factors a community has the less resilient a community is deemed to be. 

Economic Mobility

Housing and transportation costs burden presents the combined housing and transportation costs as a percentage of annual income based on data from the Housing and Transportation Affordability Index. This dashboard helps to measure our progress on Recommendations 1 and 2. When housing and transportation costs exceed 30% of total household income, economic mobility is decreased.

The Centralina region has five target industry clusters and associated niche sectors that drive regional growth and global competitiveness. These clusters generally have a strong growth trajectory, have performed well across all counties and align with local values, which typically emphasize high-growth industries with healthy wages and capital investment. Goals three focuses on these five industries to help ensure that the region is best positioned for economic growth.  

Recommendation 1: Develop a refined regional cluster strategy that builds on cross linkages and responds to emerging growth opportunities.

1.1 Identify cross linkages and convergences within the advanced manufacturing, health & life sciences and IT and logistics & distribution clusters. 

1.2 Work with county economic development agencies to identify opportunities to revise cluster strategy based on convergence analysis, focusing specifically on supply chain, talent development, R&D and branding/marketing.

Recommendation 2: Build economic resilience in the advanced manufacturing cluster to address talent, R&D and regional collaboration needs.

2.1 Investigate and determine feasibility of a regional Supply Chain Council to engage existing industry to plan for effective solutions.

2.2 Support the development of a regional network of innovation hubs to house advanced manufacturing research, testing, prototype fabrication and workforce development programming.

2.3 Develop stronger systems for business engagement and industry knowledge sharing to understand and engage on critical issues such as available supportive resources, AI/automation transition, Industry 4.0 innovations and youth career awareness.

2.4 Invest in diversifying and upskilling the advanced manufacturing talent pipeline through apprenticeships, harmonized career pathway descriptions and collaborative training models.

2.5 Facilitate expansion of second and third tier companies by offering supports related to supply chain diversification, enhancing their product or materials innovation and manufacturing capabilities and supporting their expansion into new foreign and domestic markets.

Recommendation 3: Strengthen internal knowledge sharing and external promotion of the region.

3.1 Improve cross-regional knowledge of target industries and niche sectors in each county to strengthen regional competitiveness and identify opportunities for collaboration.

3.2 Amplify regional branding and storytelling of target industries and niche sectors to highlight county assets and reinforce regional competitiveness.

3.3 Engage in cross-region and cross-state economic development initiatives that align with the region’s target industries, including the health innovation corridor, N.C. clean tech cluster and N.C. biotech cluster initiatives.

Recommendation 4: Enhance the research and development capacity within the region through proactive support and engagement of universities and industry.

4.1 Support the development of new and expansion of existing centers of excellence that support commercialization activities within the region’s industry clusters and niche sectors such as energy, materials, defense, IT/cyber and life sciences.

4.2 Assess the R&D, innovation and technology commercialization resources within the region’s industry clusters to identify areas of weakness, opportunity and collaboration.

4.3 Expand and integrate R&D capabilities within the industry clusters by connecting industry and entrepreneurs with R&D capabilities at universities and centers of excellence.

Recommendation 5: Strengthen the region’s global engagement approach.

5.1 Map relationships, investments and assets by county to identify target countries for a regionally coordinated global engagement strategy.

5.2 Explore and encourage creative partnerships with target countries or global networks that bring expertise, investment and good practice to addressing economic development, infrastructure and policy challenges in the region.

5.3 Connect Centralina EDD global engagement efforts to public diplomacy efforts of local governments, colleges and universities and explore opportunities for collaboration.

Measuring Our Progress

The following two dashboards were selected to track the impact of the CEDS and the region’s progress towards strengthening regional resilience and global competitiveness.

Job Growth by Occupation

Job growth by occupation presents the concentration of jobs in the region, the nature of associated wages and their growth patterns.

International Exports

The international exports dashboard provides data from the International Trade Administration it reports the nature of exports for the Charlotte Metro by county, by goods and for the top five export industries and helps support Recommendation 5.

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