Published: Mar 19, 2013 07:00 PM
Modified: Mar 18, 2013 12:55 PM
I grew up in this town. For those of you who were here in the ’60s and ’70s, you may remember going to Brady’s Restaurant on Friday nights. Or taking the public bus system to University Mall as a child and walking around with your friends to pass the time.
Those are some wonderful memories. But you may also remember that after graduating from high school or UNC, many of us did not even consider starting our careers here. It was a given that we would move away and begin our lives elsewhere, unless there was a family business or graduate school to keep us here.
And while I appreciate the small town I had the privilege of growing up in and the safety that came along with it, there is no denying that our town has had a dramatic growth spurt since I frequented Swensen’s with my elementary school buddies.
Most of that growth has been good and it has been vital for the good health of a dynamic and progressive community. It’s allowed thousands of individuals and dozens of businesses from all over the country to benefit from this very special place. And the arrival of those individuals and businesses, in turn, has greatly benefitted our community.
Over the next few years, our community will experience continued growth. It is up to us, the residents and business people of this community, to determine our fate and how we will accommodate that growth and change. With a unified vision and a practical plan for making that vision happen, anything is possible.
As a business community, we can help define this vision even more clearly. There has been much talk about the innovative thinking and unique ideas coming out of our neighboring communities, especially with regard to entrepreneurship. And indeed, those communities are undertaking some really interesting initiatives and launching new ways of addressing business growth in a number of different sectors.
But what many of you may not realize is that Chapel Hill and Carrboro, too, are leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation. The university has been instrumental in developing an entrepreneurial spirit in our town, and that spirit has led to the growth of several incubators and accelerators.
By continuing to focus on and invest in innovative thinking and entrepreneurship, we can create an environment that will not only fuel the entrepreneurial spirit in our town, but we will:
• Create the jobs we need to support our growing population
• Revitalize and redevelop our downtowns, and;
• Create new growth enterprises.
We are an entrepreneurial and innovative community. We have at times lamented our success in retaining companies as they grow, but our ability to do so is dramatically improving. To be successful will require everyone being focused on the same vision.
Simply, it’s similar to driving a car. You have to know where you are going and keep your eyes looking forward. If you begin staring at a tree along the road, your car will follow that route. We must focus on the road ahead of us, and our car will follow that path.
That’s not to say we won’t encounter obstacles in the road, but we must look forward. And by doing so, we can create a community that will keep our graduates and extended families here to help create an even more wonderful, thriving community than we already have.Paige Zinn is a principal at Jennings and chair of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Chamber of Commerce.
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