The Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will launch a $1.6 million center to promote business growth and job creation in eastern North Carolina, officials said Tuesday.
The Center for Jobs and Innovative Business Development will be funded with a five-year, $642,949 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and $1 million in matching funds from the Kenan Institute.
“We know that existing businesses, particularly high-growth companies, are the significant job creators in our communities,” Thomas Stith, the institute’s program director for economic development, said in a statement. “We’ll be focusing a large part of our work on activities that help the region build capacity to support its existing high-growth businesses and entrepreneurial ventures.”
The center builds on the institute’s work in the region over the past four years and the needs identified by a roundtable of regional business, government, academic and nonprofit leaders that Stith convened a year ago.
The effort focuses on 18 counties that are among the most economically distressed in North Carolina because of declines in the tobacco and textile industries. The counties are Bertie, Beaufort, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Northampton, Pitt, Warren, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.
“Our goal is to extend the reach and impact of an extensive network of partners already working in this area to create a vibrant economic development ecosystem for eastern North Carolina,” Stith said.
The Kenan Institute, part of Kenan-Flagler Business School, offers consulting services, research and education programs for companies and communities that promote economic development, entrepreneurship and global competitiveness.