Strategic Economic Development Plan for North Carolina

First in Talent: Strategic Economic Development Plan for the State of North Carolina offers a road map and recommendations for economic development in North Carolina and serves as an important reference point for policymakers and economic developers in the state.

Click here to download the plan

Download the plan's supplemental economic overview report

The plan sets three overall goals for the state, and then outlines 14 strategies and related tactics to achieve these goals.

  • Goal 1: Prepare North Carolina’s workforce for career and entrepreneurial success
  • Goal 2: Prepare North Carolina’s businesses for success by growing and attracting a talented workforce
  • Goal 3. Prepare communities across North Carolina to be more competitive in growing and attracting a talented workforce and businesses

Resources | State Economic Development Plan

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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. What is the First in Talent plan?

The First in Talent plan is the strategic economic development plan for the State of North Carolina. The North Carolina Department of Commerce is statutorily required to develop the state’s comprehensive economic development plan and provide updates on the status of the plan annually. Commerce released the First in Talent plan in July 2021, which outlines North Carolina’s vision for economic development for the next four years. The plan’s strategy focuses on the universally recognized importance that talent has for business growth, career success, and community preparedness. The plan outlines three goals to guide the state’s strategy:

  1. Prepare North Carolina’s workforce for career and entrepreneurial success.
  2. Prepare North Carolina’s businesses for success by growing and attracting a talented workforce.
  3. Prepare communities across North Carolina to be more competitive in growing and attracting a talented workforce and businesses.

Q. How will the N.C. Department of Commerce partner with other entities to implement the goals in the First in Talent plan?

The First in Talent plan is designed for all people and communities in the state. It is representative of collaborative partnerships, both public and private, with a shared responsibility to invest in our state’s talent pipeline and to build more desirable places to work and to live.

Commerce is currently partnering with stakeholders to develop a four-year implementation plan and to advance policies aligned with the plan’s underlying theme- workforce and talent development.

Organizations that would like to receive more information about the First in Talent plan can sign up for the email distribution list here.

Q. What strategies and tactics are included in the plan to emphasize equity in the state’s economic development strategy?

A lens of greater inclusion and equity was applied to the entire First in Talent plan and is apparent in the strategies identified to support each of the plan’s three key goals. The Covid-19 pandemic taught us that intentional efforts must be made to address inequities that exist in our health and education systems, our economy, and in our environment. For example, the First in Talent plan outlines strategies to increase access to high-quality early childhood education, to increase participation in work-based learning opportunities for populations most disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, and to enhance systems to better support populations with barriers to employment. Expanded strategies and new approaches are required to ensure an available and skilled workforce.

A complete list of the 14 strategies included in the plan is available on page 4 of the First in Talent plan here.

Q. What strategies are included in the plan to support Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs)?

Increased investments in the people who manage our businesses, lead our communities, and operate our workplaces will improve the economic conditions for all North Carolinians and, in-turn, support a more diverse business environment. However, tactical recommendations are included to deliberately “bolster a robust small business recovery, inclusive of opportunities for new entrepreneurs and women and minority owned firms.”

Tactic 7.3 calls for enhancements to educational and business resources to promote the success of North Carolina’s women and minority owned businesses as exemplified by increased employment and revenue. To do so, the state should increase funding to NC’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and support recommendations outlined in the Andrea Harris Task Force’s 2021 Biannual Report and the Department of Administration’s Disparity Study Report.

Strategic partnerships with organizations providing services to small businesses and historically underutilized businesses must be leveraged to support the recovery, growth, and development of small businesses, historically underutilized businesses, and entrepreneurs.

Q. How does the state’s new economic development strategy support rural communities?

The third goal in the First in Talent plan is to prepare communities across North Carolina to be more competitive in growing and attracting a talented workforce and businesses. To become a First in Talent state, North Carolina must bolster its efforts to build healthy, resilient, and connected communities. Vibrant communities produce, attract, and retain top-quality workers and entrepreneurs. Several strategies are named in the plan to build healthier communities, expand access to downtown redevelopment assistance, and to expand physical infrastructure support in rural communities.

For more information, please visit the Rural Economic Development Division’s webpage.

Q. Why does the plan focus on talent and workforce development instead of other traditional aspects of economic development like industry specific strategies, incentive grants, and increased funding for economic development work?

Every business survey conducted nationally and in the state identifies acquiring and growing the right talent as a crucial factor to a business’s success, making it the single most important issue to ensure North Carolina’s competitiveness.

Recent improvements such as an increase in the cap for the state’s incentive program, Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) and decreased corporate tax rates have led to the state’s recent success with new jobs and investment announcements. North Carolina is now well positioned to remain competitive for economic development opportunities in our targeted industry sectors- aerospace, automotive, clean energy, information technology and life science.

Now is the time for a renewed focus on recruiting and retaining the talent necessary to meet current and future workforce needs.

For more information, please read the First in Talent plan Executive Summary.