Season 1, Episode 2

CES19     Chris Chung of EDPNC

by | Dec 20, 2018 | Podcast | 0 comments

Want to learn more about why North Carolina is a great place to have a business? Then head to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show to meet the team from the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina! Their team is part of the North Carolina Startup Pavilion and will be in Booth 51845 in Eureka Park. Listen in as EDPNC CEO Chris Chung joins Janet Kennedy, host of Trade Show Live – On the Road!   

About This Episode

Announcer:                 00:00            You’re listening to Trade Show Live – On the Road, featuring conversations with the people who bring trade shows to life, including attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and trade show, industry thought leaders. We attend trade shows around the country in a wide variety of industries from healthcare consumer products and everything in between. The podcast is a production of the tradeshow manager, a trade show consulting firms, and now let’s go on the road with Trade Show Live.

Janet:                                00:28                   Welcome to a Trade Show Live – On the Road. This podcast is a production of The Tradeshow Manager and features an in depth look at the people, companies, and organizations that bring trade shows to life. In January 2019, we are headed to CES, the consumer electronics show, which is an amazing event that takes overall of Las Vegas every year. This year we’re going with an amazing group of startups and business leaders will be in Eureka Park and displaying some of the best new ideas coming from the startup community of North Carolina. One of the organizations in the North Carolina Startup pavilion is the EDPNC, which stands for the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. With me today, is the chief executive officer Christopher Chung, or do you prefer Chris?

Chris:                                 01:20                   Chris is just fine. Thanks, Janet.

Janet:                                01:22                   Welcome to Trade Show Live – On the Road.

Chris:                                 01:25                   Great to be here. Thank you.

Janet:                                01:27                   I know that the economic development of North Carolina is hot, hot, hot right now and we are making a lot of news while we didn’t lay into Amazon. That’s okay. There are a lot of other things come into the pipeline and a lot of exciting news. So Chris, start me off with a little bit and explain what exactly is the EDPNC?

Chris:                                 01:47                   Sure.Thanks, Janet. So the economic development partnership in North Carolina or the EDPNC, we’re a nonprofit organization that works to advance economic development here in the state of North Carolina. The way we approach it is really through a five-fold mission, if you will. Probably what we’re best known for is our work in trying to recruit companies here from outside the state. So a lot of our work involves manufacturing companies, corporate headquarters, companies in biotechnology, life sciences, information technology, food processing. Those are the kinds of industries and the types of companies that were regularly in conversations with trying to convince them to either look atNorth Carolina or of course ultimately locate their future growth and operations in our state. Obviously there are many, many players and partners who are involved in that process, but as a state organization, we’re typically that first point of contact that gets to hear from those companies and start laying out that sales pitch, if you will, for why we think North Carolina is the right place for their future growth.

Chris:                                 02:47                   But like I said, that’s just one part of our mission overall. We’re also responsible among other things for promoting North Carolina for tourism. We happen to live in a beautiful state. Everything from the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge mountains in the all the way out to the outer banks and the crystal coast on the east at 300 miles of shoreline and a lot of wonderful things in between. So we’re very fortunate to draw tens of millions of visitors to North Carolina spending billions of dollars on our local economies all throughout the state. So we want to make sure that we continue to put out a message that’s going to be treating people and get them to come to visit North Carolina. We also help a lot of our manufacturers to find new markets for their products overseas regions of the world. Still, export assistance is what we call it, but nothing more complex than helping our companies figure out whether it makes sense for them to sell into overseas markets and if so, how do they go about getting as many customers as possible.

Chris:                                 03:41                   And then of course we try never to forget that in spite of our efforts to recruit new companies in North Carolina, there are quite literally tens of thousands of companies already here in our state that we want to make sure we’re serving their needs and helping figure out how they can grow and expand right here in the state. So it’s a pretty broad mission, but all of it is important to you.In North Carolina, if we’re talking about increasing job creation, we’re talking about increasing tax space and of course just increasing economic opportunity for the people who call North Carolina home.

Chris:                                 04:14                   Okay. That really does sound like a very long laundry list of responsibilities, but the thing is you’re not very old. This, this organization hasn’t been around for areally long time.

Chris:                                 04:26                   No, we haven’t. So we’re celebrating our fourth year. Actually, we just celebrated our four year anniversary back in October. Now it’s not as if North Carolina wasn’t doing any of these things before. Our organization was created to essentially take over these responsibilities which used to be housed within state government in the public sector, so North Carolina followed the lead of a number of other states which in recent years have moved their state economic development functions into this kind of nonprofit or public-private partnership model. Really to give a couple of things. One is just more operating flexibility than what sometimes possible within the public sector, but more importantly, as a nonprofit, we’re able to go out there and receive support from private industry, construction companies, utilities, banks, real estate development firms. Those are just some of the types of companies that help our operation by investing their dollars into our work, and so what that ultimately does is it gives us more resources to go out there and do all those different things that were trusted and I think that’s why North Carolina made that move and a number of states have as well. So again, all of that’s important work. It’s just in the past four years we’ve changed that model and evolved it to the competitive industry that we’re in right now and change different economic development goals.

Janet:                                05:41                   Now. Do you still liaise with a governmental office?

Chris:                                 05:45                   Absolutely, yes. So the North Carolina Department of Commerce is probably the partner that we interact with by far the most often they’re the ones who used to have those responsibilities that we now perform on their behalf under contract, the North Carolina Department of Commerce though still does a lot of really important things that are critical to economic development success in our state, for example, they focus a lot on workforce development. All of those things designed to make sure that when companies expand or locate here, they have access to the best talent and best training resources to help them groom their talent as possible. The Commerce Department also administers all of the states financial incentive programs. We know that that’s a pretty critical factor for a lot of the companies that are looking to locate here, whether they’re small, whether they’re large, whether they’re everything in between. We know that there are often times looking to maximize their return on investment and reduce their costs of doing business and incentives have been one way for companies to do that, so the Commerce Department still controls all those programs. It’s pretty straightforward when we’ve got a company that we know is interested in North Carolina, when those incentives come up in conversation, we absolutely bring our partners from the Commerce Department to the table so that we can all jointly work on getting that company to eventually decide on a location here in our state.

Janet:                                07:03                   No, I know we’ve been making all kinds of top 10 lists for places to live, for talent in the marketplace for experience in certain areas, but I understand that we also have interests internationally.

Chris:                                 07:20                   Yes, absolutely. So of course, as you can imagine when we’re talking to all these call them, hundreds of companies every year that we have a chance to recruit and attract here from outside the state, probably one out of three and these days is a company that’s headquartered somewhere outside the United States. The United States remains a really attractive market for companies to sell into and in recent years, more and more companies have decided it makes sense for them not only to sell into the US but to actually have a footprint or presence operating and doing business here in the United States. And so when more companies are looking at being in the US, then of course by definition that means we get more chances here in North Carolina to get those companies to call our state home for their US operations. So historically we’ve seen a lot of interest from western Europe and East Asia, but these days you’re seeing much more activity from markets like India, Turkey, Brazil, and Israel. These are also increasingly important sources of inbound investment companies coming from those markets looking to establish operations somewhere in the US. And of course we want that somewhere in the US to be right here in North Carolina.

Janet:                                08:30                   Okay. So that means you are marketing globally. That sounds kind of expensive.

Chris:                                 08:36                   It is. So there’s never enough money. I don’t think any organization ever complains about having too much money. I think our efforts to promote North Carolina, of course, are, as you said, both domestically and overseas. We don’t have a lot of money to go out there and take out advertisements on tv or even online or on and all these different markets, at least not on the business side. We have a little bit more to play around with when it comes to tourism promotion because we’re trying to reach individual consumers as opposed to businesses, but what we do have on the business front is a network of international offices that compliment our team sitting right here in North Carolina, so we have offices in Germany covering in Europe. We have offices in China, Japan and Korea and we just opened up here in November an office in India.

Chris:                                 09:24                   Those five offices are responsible for getting in front of companies in their parts of the world, trying to convince them of the business case for why North Carolina makes sense for future expansion and so that’s probably one of our best tools to get in front of the audience that we want to reach, which are growth-minded companies overseas. Thinking about where they want to be. And then of course here in the United States, it’s a lot easier because we’re sitting in the US and so it’s a lot easier for us to get out to industry conferences, industry gatherings, association meetings, events like CES. These are all prime, fertile territory for us to get out there with the message of North Carolina and why we’re an excellent location for companies to do their future expansion.

Janet:                                10:07                   Well, I certainly love wearing my North Carolina hat and I represent probably the typical North Carolinian … I’m not from around here, so I was born and raised in New England and Gosh Dolly, they have a snow up there in the wintertime and went to college in Baltimore and they still had snow so I finally had to make it to North Carolina and wow, did I find home! I just think the Carolinas are the perfect climate and you could get to the from the mountains to the ocean in a single day drive and it’s just a beautiful, beautiful place to live. And I think a lot of folks, US Yankee, so moved down here sort of adopt some of the hospitality focused that the south is so famous for and this is really just a wonderful place to live.

Chris:                                 10:54                   It really is. I mean, there’s a reason why North Carolina has been one of the fastest growing states when it comes to population. We’ve grown at roughly double the national average over the past two decades or so. Of course, some of that population growth happens organically when you have more people that die, but for states like North Carolina, we’ve also seen so much of that population growth result from migration, so people moving here from other parts of the US. We certainly get people moving here from outside the US, but a lot of it has been those transplants that are moving here from either the northeast or the Midwest, even places like California who are deciding that either for quality of life reasons or economic opportunity reasons. North Carolina is where they want to be. That’s really good for our businesses as well. Because what that means is the talent pool is not only being filled with university and college graduates, but it’s also being filled by people who move here after college. People who move here in the middle of their careers who have plenty of years of productivity ahead of them. That deepens the talent pool in a way that’s really attractive for the companies that we’re speaking to. Again, I think all of this goes back to some of those quality of life issues that make North Carolina is such a great place to be.

Janet:                                12:11                   What are the things that I found fascinating is the number of industries that you all represent or anyone who wants to have a business in North Carolina. How do you keep a talent pool at the EDPNC that knows how to talk to different verticals like health care or consumer electronics or manufacturing or furniture or whatever. That sounds like you have to have a pretty big staff.

Chris:                                 12:36                   Well, it obviously helps to have some background and knowledge of a particular industry, especially what that industry is often looking for when it comes to selecting a new place to do business. But all that said, I would say that economic developers, including our team of recruiters here by definition, have to be more generalists than specialists. That’s because on any given day today, you could be working with a fortune 500 corporate headquarters that’s looking to relocate because they don’t feel like they’ve got enough talent where they are right now and they need to move to a market that does. Or the next day you could be working with an automotive assembly plant that’s looking at where it’s going to locate the next day. After that. It could be a consumer package goods manufacturer that’s looking at where it’s going to set up a new production facility. The next day after that. It could be a biotech research and development center.

Chris:                                 13:29                   Bottom line is every single day really does bring a different set of conversations, so rather than focus on becoming experts in all of these industries or a jack of all trades, master of none. What’s more important for us as the salespeople or the front line salespeople for North Carolina is really be able to plug those companies in and that we’re trying to recruit. Get them in front of some of those subject matter experts and other resources that are here in North Carolina. That can articulate the case for why those companies can be successful here. It’s ultimately about building the right team around the table that can collectively make that pitch and convince that company why this is the best location for them. So I think for us it’s about understanding what that company’s looking for and then matching them up with the information and the resources that will help them get to that understanding that North Carolina is really the only place they need to look.

Janet:                                14:24                   I am curious about the word partnership in your title. So who are you partnering with and why would a current company be interested in partnering with you to bring more companies here?

Chris:                                 14:37                   Sure. So great question. I mean it’s very deliberate why we have that word in our name. As I said, even though we are fortunate to often be that first point of contact that companies and their consultants reach out to when they’re thinking about where to expand, nothing we do is accomplished without a very broad team effort. Again, we’re working at a state level. We have partners like the North Carolina Department of Commerce around the table. Sometimes you’ll even get agencies like the environmental quality department which handles all the permitting, very important issue for manufacturers. Sometimes you may have the state transportation department, which of course could help with somebody infrastructure needs that a company is thinking about that’s just at the state level alone. You get down to a regional level and down to a local level and there are a lot of partners at each of those stages that are also wanting to be able to add value and help further that argument to accompany as to why they need to be here and then of course we’ve got a lot of private sector partners.

Chris:                                 15:36                   Again, utility companies play a big role in that business recruitment effort. Construction companies can often be very valuable in that effort. We are, as I said earlier, we are trying to put the best team around the table that can articulate the most impactful case to companies as to why North Carolina’s their best choice for their future growth. That symphony of partners is going to look different probably every single project that we’re working on because the needs of every single company are different. When it comes to their future growth, so I think that’s a big part of why that term partnership is part of our name and it doesn’t just come into play when we’re trying to recruit companies that you look at what we do on the tourism front or helping companies export and in all of those areas we also team up with a lot of other organizations that can help us accomplish the mission that we’re entrusted with.

Chris:                                 16:30                   So like I said, partnership is a key part of economic development. Everyone who’s in this business will tell you it very much is a team sport. We of course hope that as more companies come to North Carolina, we can convert some of those companies into being surrogate spokespeople and ambassadors for North Carolina. The best success storytellers that we can recruit are the ones who have come here and done business and been successful because if they can go out there and tell their peers in the industry by North Carolina is a great place to be, that’s going to be far more than those words coming from the mouths of folks like us paid to say good things about North Carolina. That business to business, peer to peer testimony. That’s another way that we hope to partner with companies as we get that story out there about North Carolina.

Janet:                                17:15                   One of the unique things about the Consumer Electronics Show where we’re going to bein Eureka Park is it’s all about the startup community and what I love about North Carolina is it does have everything from the five-decade companies with experience to brand new startups and I know that’s one of the things that North Carolina has focused on and what we’re looking at is what we’re growing in our own backyard. So tell me a little bit about the economic development partnerships role in helping startups in North Carolina.

Chris:                                 17:48                   Sure, absolutely. I think we would assist startups in pretty much the same way we would assist any company that approaches us for assistance. Those startup companies, whether their needs are around capital, whether their needs are hiring a certain kind of talent, whether those needs are the ability to partner with universities. We have a number of world-class universities here in North Carolina. Sometimes those early-stage startup companies may even be looking for access to particular types of customers or an entree into a particular customer relationship that would benefit them down the road. Any and all of these ways are ways that we believe we can add value by helping those startup companies get to where they want to be. Of course, it’s on those startup companies to prove that a venture capital firm should invest in them. It’s up to them to prove that a potential customer should buy their product or service. Of course, that’s always going to be the case, but if we can help facilitate some of those introductions to those resources here in North Carolina, that ultimately is something we want to do because that can lead to those startup companies starting right here in our state or putting all of their future growth here.

Janet:                                18:58                   Well, of course, we’re on a podcast talking about trade shows and trade shows must be an important part of how you’re getting the message out of the EDPNC

Chris:                                 19:08                   They are, as I said, it’d be great if we had infinite resources for marketing and could plaster every available surface, Pro North Carolina message, but unfortunately that’s not the not the world we live in or wherever the world, but I will live in so we have to be very strategic and very focused about how we get out there and tell that story of North Carolina as a business location, industry conferences, industry, trade shows, events like CES. These are great platforms for us because they congregate so many companies in that targeted industry sector that we want to go after. When you think about CES and the kinds of innovative technology companies that CS attracts large, small in between, it really ought to be fertile grounds for us to make connections, develop relationships, and most importantly, get that message out about North Carolina being an excellent place for business to start, grow or locate.

Janet:                                20:03                   I think one of the interesting things, you will find it CES, where we are in Eureka Park is interestingly, it is predominantly foreign countries who are represented there and we found our experience last year was that most of the states were not represented, so we’re very excited that North Carolina is going to be banned or leading with prison said the Eureka Park as part of CES.

Chris:                                 20:29                   We’re absolutely thrilled as well. It’ll be our first time at CES. I suspect it won’t be our last time though. Like I said, when you think about the kinds of companies that will be gathered at CES, you think about the value proposition. North Carolina has everything from talent pool to university research to the quality of life, cost of doing business. We have all of the elements that any of these companies, again, large, small and in between would be craving as they think about where they’re going to expand in the future and we’re just really excited to be able to get out there and start telling that story in this setting.

Janet:                        21:02                   And for those who are listening who planned to come to CES, you can find the North Carolina Startup pavilion in Eureka Park, which is the startup park. We saw Mark Cuban there last year, so who knows who’s going to come by this year and to find us more easily. Look for Singapore. We’re across the street from them.

Chris:                                 21:21                   It is a small world, right?

Janet:                                21:23                   Absolutely. It’s like being in an international environment. Chris, I am so excited that the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina is going to be with us at CES and I very much look forward to telling more stories about the exciting things that are going on in North Carolina. I’m a big fan-girl and hopefully, I’ll be wearing a North Carolina shirt while I’m there.

Chris:                                 21:48                   We’ll count on seeing you in it.

Janet:                                21:50                   You’ve been listening to trade show, live on the road. This podcast is a production of the trade show manager and features in depth interviews with people, the companies, and the organizations that really bring trade shows to life. We’ll see you in January at CES, the consumer electronic show. Thanks for listening.

Announcer:                      22:11                   Thanks for listening to Trade Show Live – On the Road, a production of The Trade Show Manager, a trade show consulting firm. If you need innovative programs to engage attendees and exhibitors and sponsors, custom research or new solutions for your trade show, contact The Trade Show Manager on our website,

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