WEDN 2022 Round Up

The theme of this year’s forum was COVID Accelerated Everything – What’s Next? We dove into how COVID has impacted industrial real estate, entrepreneurship, city planning, family friendly workplace policies, and a host of other topics. This year we gave out copies of Adam Grant’s book Think Again. It is apropos given our theme and how we have been rethinking what we were certain we knew over the last two years.  

A panel discussion of “what happens after the winning the big project” kicked off the forum. There have been several huge announcements in the Carolinas and Virginia over the last few years. The pandemic accelerated trends in manufacturing and logistics that lead to a higher than usual level of project activity. Stephanie Landrum, Irena Krstanovic, and Tiffany Harrison shared what happens after the announcement, when the real work of executing on project deliverables starts.

Lisa Finaldi with the NC Early Childhood Partnership gave us a sneak peak into the new Family Friendly Certification that employers can attain in North Carolina. During COVID, millions of women left the workforce. Employers are trying to lure them back. The Family Friendly Certification is one tool they can use. 

The second day of the Learn and Lead Forum was kicked-off by Elise Partin with The Buckley School leading a workshop on negotiation skills. Economic developers negotiate in projects, for funding, with groups over conflicting views of development, and in their careers. Partin offered tools and tips of successful negotiators and strategies we can all use at work and in our personal life. Click here to get the handout.

What’s next for cities? Dr. Christina Danis shared her perspective on what the post-pandemic city will look like. COVID impacted how far people will live from their job and that impacts transportation, amenities, and many facets of city planning.

Another panel shared insights on “how to leverage record new business starts in your community.” Amanda Forrester and Heather McWhorter work in the entrepreneurship space in Virginia and North Carolina, respectively. They said the profile of the entrepreneur and what they need is changing so economic development organizations need to change their approach. Key takeaways are space is not always the answer, entrepreneurs want content on demand, and the scope of entrepreneurs’ ideas is getting bigger.

Ashley Rogers with Costar Group gave the keynote address over lunch. She presented in depth data on what is happening in the industrial real estate market in the region. Demand is surging. Space is being built in record amounts. But demand will continue to outpace supply driving cost up. There were simultaneous smiles and groans from the audience. More product, yay! Prices surging, groan! Here is the link to the article on the 85 corridor she referenced in her presentation.

WEDN attendees come for the programming, but also to expand their professional network. Being back in person meant we could continue some WEDN traditions. Networking, always a highlight of the forum, included fun activities such as a round of trivia. We have some real trivia nerds in our group!  Another tradition is paying it forward. Attendees once again donated gently used career clothing items for the Dress for Success Career Closet.

The purpose of WEDN is to advance women in the field of economic development. We do that through professional development and expanding networks. We appreciate everyone who participated, presented, and engaged in the program and discussions. Look for WEDN 2023 announcements this fall. We hope to see you, next year.   

Presentation slides are available in the links above and posted on our WEDN past events page.

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