Spotlight On: Tansy Jefferies, Principal, International Tax Services, RSM US LLP

Spotlight On: Tansy Jefferies, Principal, International Tax Services, RSM US LLP

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read November 2019 — In today’s tight labor market, companies are feeling the pressure more than ever to stand out as leaders both in their industry and in their community. This includes efforts to promote diversity and inclusion within their organizations. Tansy Jefferies, principal for international tax services at RSM US LLP, spoke with Invest: about how RSM is leading the way in shattering the gender barriers in the accounting industry with 30 percent female ownership within the company, and the firm’s efforts to empower their employees with constant investment into enhancing the employee experience. 


How is RSM tackling gender challenges in the accounting industry?


We are proud to report that RSM in South Florida is leading the charge and breaking the proverbial glass ceiling with 30 percent female ownership in an industry where the average is approximately 16 percent. RSM places a high emphasis on coaching and mentoring our high-performing women to retain and accelerate them into leadership positions. We also want to increase diversity and inclusion more broadly throughout our organization. Culture, diversity and inclusion are strategic business drivers and have shown to be great catalysts for business growth. Our mission is to be the first choice adviser to middle market companies globally and to do that, we need a workforce that is as diverse as our clientele. This is the best way to truly deliver the power of being understood. 


How is RSM finding the talent it needs, given the county’s low unemployment rate?


We have found that our focus on culture, diversity and inclusion has also differentiated us from other firms when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent. RSM places a great deal of emphasis on delivering the power of being understood, not only to our clients but to our people as well. Through the RSM talent experience, we empower each other to enhance our value and build successful careers. We build rich, enduring relationships based on a profound understanding of each other, our goals and our aspirations. Because when we feel truly understood, we are empowered to move forward with confidence, both personally and professionally. RSM is constantly enhancing the talent experience by investing in and implementing new training, tools and resources. Specifically related to recruiting, we align with the State’s top universities to bring students into our internship programs. We also drive recruitment through diverse professional organizations, such as the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA) and the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALPFA), which aligns with our goals of building a diverse workforce for the future.


In what areas is RSM seeing the greatest demand for its services?


As a specialist in transfer pricing, I have seen an uptick in services that affect multinational, middle market organizations. From tax reform to changes across the broader global tax landscape, there has been a significant impact on international companies. We have also seen a rise in enquiries from investors on the tax programs related to Opportunity Zones. On the assurance side, there have been increased activities related to implementing the new revenue recognition and lease accounting standards for public, private and government entities. Our financial advisory services practice has also been growing, as the economic outlook makes it a favorable market for buying and selling businesses. As for RSM’s consulting services, our cybersecurity, blockchain, infrastructure, managed IT services, and risk consulting practices are all growing at a rapid pace.


What is enticing investors into the Broward market?


South Florida is an enticing climate for a multitude of reasons, including the federal tax changes and incentives that have fostered an interest from our clients determined to keep jobs and intellectual property in the United States. One of the usual challenges for inbound foreign investors is understanding the complexity of U.S. tax law, because of the different layers of taxation at the federal, state and local levels. Fortunately, for businesses seeking relocation into Broward County, those layers are not quite as complex as in other parts of the country, which makes Broward a favorable option. From an economic perspective, Broward has a high quality of life, strong economic growth, and is dedicated to investing in infrastructure and the community, all of which are great reasons for businesses to invest in our community. 


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Spotlight On: Matt Crum, Executive Vice President, FrankCrum

Spotlight On: Matt Crum, Executive Vice President, FrankCrum

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read November 2019 — Achieving longevity in any marketplace is difficult. That level of difficulty increases significantly when an area is growing and competition is introduced on a frequent basis. The solution to continuing to remain a leader is the flexibility to evolve with a customer’s needs, as well as having the ability to quickly switch gears in terms of focus for the business. Matt Crum, the executive vice president for Clearwater-based FrankCrum, understands these concepts, an understanding that has contributed to 38 years of success for his family’s business. 


 To what do you attribute the company’s longevity in this market? 


Change is inevitable in any business and I believe part of the reason we have been successful over the years is our acceptance and embrace of change. The company started as a staffing firm in 1981, opened what is the professional employer organization (PEO) a few years later, and we now have an insurance carrier, insurance agency and a managing general agency all under the FrankCrum flag. We understand that to remain relevant, we must continue to evolve with our customer’s needs. Something that has remained the same since we’ve been in business is our value system. Our three brand pillars are integrity, prosperity and affinity and those ideals are extended to all of the stakeholders in our business.

What benefits have been afforded to FrankCrum remaining a privately held business all these years? 

Tampa Bay, and specifically Clearwater, is more of a regional business hub as compared to some of the other, large markets in the Southeast. While there is a national company presence in the region, there are not a lot of big companies headquartered here. Being a privately held business allows us the autonomy to make decisions on a different time horizon than publicly traded or private equity-owned businesses. We can make an evaluation without having to consider what our shareholders are going to say or how the quarterly results are going to be affected. It lends itself to longer term thinking, clearly focusing on what is important and executing.

How has the location of Clearwater been beneficial to the success of FrankCrum? 

Being in the Clearwater/Tampa Bay region has been a huge benefit to our business. It is a fantastic market as the cost of living is pretty low, there is easy access to the No. 1 beach in the country, there are major market sports teams and the region really has everything that any other major market in the country has. The friendly tax environment for individuals and companies makes it easier to compete on a national level, especially when we are competing against the companies based in more expensive, higher tax environments. This location also helps in recruiting people who live in those environments. The idea of paying less in taxes and living in a great area is attractive to them. 

What lessons did you learn from the last financial crisis and how do they apply now? 

As a professional employer organization (PEO), we offer payroll processing, HR services and consulting, tax and benefits administration, and workers’ compensation and risk management to our customers.  Prior to the financial crisis, we were more specialized, focusing on specific industry segments. This was good while it lasted but hit us pretty hard during the recession. It forced us to look closely at our processes and our service offering. We realized we needed to invest pretty heavily in technology and personnel to expand our potential customer base and prepare for growth as the economy turned around. It turned out to be a successful strategy because we’ve experienced very solid growth over the last eight to nine years.  Our business benefits from the strength in the labor market and rising wages. As competition increases for talent, businesses need to improve their benefit offering so they often turn to a PEO. As they grow, especially into other states, we help them stay in compliance with state and local laws. 


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Spotlight On: Jesse Flowers, Community President, CenterState Bank

Spotlight On: Jesse Flowers, Community President, CenterState Bank

By: Max Crampton-Thomas


2 minute read November 2019 — Staying competitive and emerging as a leader in a crowded banking field takes smart growth strategies, remaining cognizant of trends in the industry and an ever-increasing focus on the technological wants and needs of customers. Jesse Flowers, the community president for CenterState Bank, spoke to Invest: about how his bank is ensuring continued growth into the future.  

How does your bank ensure continued and sustainable growth? 


We continue to grow, hire more people and expand our client base. We are always looking for acquisitions and good partnerships. We have acquired five banks over the last six years in South Florida, and all of them have been a strong fit. We want to make sure that our culture fits with the companies we acquire. We still run like a small bank, and all our decisions are made locally.


We stick to our fundamentals. We make sure that the loans that we provide are to good, qualified borrowers that can withstand a recession. On the commercial lending side, most of the demand is driven by real estate. We are paying close attention to where we are in the real estate cycle because Florida is mostly driven by tourism and real estate.


What is a particular trend you are keeping a close eye on? 


Banking is always changing. One of the trends that we have seen over the last five years is people using alternative lenders. Whether it be hedge funds, internet lenders or hard-equity lenders, a high number of those lenders have stepped into the market, more than they used to in the past. That might continue to be a trend because they are often able to be more flexible on the terms and conditions of their loans due to less regulation.


How does CenterState Bank remain client-focused in a rapidly changing banking environment? 


People are more focused on technology. We have to focus on the services that people want, like better and easier online technology. Those are the services that are expanding with people using phone and online banking. CenterState has invested in technology over the last several years because we know how important it is. Now, with open source platforms, access is getting cheaper, and we have hired in-house programming professionals to develop software for us.


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Spotlight On: David Druey, South Florida Regional President, Centennial Bank

Spotlight On: David Druey, South Florida Regional President, Centennial Bank

By: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — Connectivity to the community is the key differentiator when it comes to the variety of banks in the region, David Druey, South Florida regional president for Centennial Bank, told Invest:. He also raised some significant points about determining the right talent fit for a role in his bank, and how millennials could benefit from understanding and appreciating the significant advantages that having a human relationship with their bank can bring. 


How does your bank differentiate itself in a crowded financial market? 

Whether it is a large, regional, super-regional or community bank, the key difference is the connectivity the bank has to the community. Typically, larger banks have a tendency not to focus on small business. They look for large corporations that take out massive loans. They underserve the communities that they have branches in and use their branches for deposit gathering rather than actually servicing the customer’s needs on both the loans and deposits sides. While we are a $15 billion organization, we have allowed each branch to go with what I call their bend, which is allowing them to do the kind of work that they will succeed in. For instance, if there is a need for construction lending in their market, then they should be doing construction lending. This allows our branches to be in the markets on a much more granular level, and not a large-scale or silo level like some of the other larger banks.

How do you determine the right talent to hire from a tight labor pool? 

Talent must have the finesse to understand financial statements, business models, clients, people and be good enough to get all the details correct in order to have loan documentation approved. There is a very small group of people who can do this job extremely well, and those who do it well are in high demand. The key is to court them to come work for you, and entice them to come over based on whatever it is that they are not getting at their current institution. When identifying these people, we also look at their reputation and overall if they are a high-quality individual. 

Have you observed any significant changes in demand for your services with the influx of millennials into South Florida?

Millennials have a tendency to do everything on their phone, which is fine and we appreciate that technology, but they are missing out on the human component of a banking relationship. Having a relationship with one’s bank is vitally important to their financial well-being. When that relationship solely exists on technology, there is no connection with the financial institution. Millennials are missing out on the connectivity and relationships with banking professionals that could ultimately help them with whatever they may need. The positive trend we are observing is that as these millennials age, they are starting to realize that to start a business or buy a home they need to have some connectivity and relationship with their bank. They are migrating more toward having relationships with financial advisers and banks because they need them as a service provider.

Due to the strict regulatory banking environment, have you seen a trend of people looking at more nontraditional lenders?

In South Florida, we are always competing against two things, cash and nontraditional financing. South Florida has quite a few nontraditional financing options, but these options typically charge for the nontraditional financing through fees and a higher interest rate. This idea is comparable to the convenience store versus a chain grocery-store mentality. A convenience store may be easier to access but you will pay $6 for a gallon of milk, while a chain grocery store may be a bit more effort to access but will result in a savings of $2 for the same product. The same idea applies for lending from a traditional source like a bank versus a nontraditional lender.


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Spotlight On: Brett Gray, Managing Principal, Cushman & Wakefield

Spotlight On: Brett Gray, Managing Principal, Cushman & Wakefield

By: Felipe Rivas

2 min read November 2019 – In the last few years, the Charlotte Metro Area has enjoyed consistent growth, thanks largely to its strong banking sector. As the region continues to grow, Charlotte’s economy is diversifying and attracting large companies that need commercial real estate solutions. In a recent interview with Invest:Charlotte, Cushman & Wakefield Managing Partner Brett Gray talks about the state of Charlotte’s real estate market, use of technology to improve client needs and his outlook for the region heading into 2020. 

How is Cushman & Wakefield addressing the growth of the Charlotte metro area?


We are organized across a suite of services with specializations that directly tie to Charlotte’s explosion as a high growth city.  These services include Capital Markets, Tenant Representation, Landlord Representation, Project & Development Services, Asset Services, Facility Management, Valuation and Advisory Services and Consulting to name a few.  Under each of those service lines, we have additional services that clients can tap into for all of their needs. 


This is a thriving city. It has often been thought of as a secondary market, but it’s practically a regional hub that’s led by the banks. That has been the driver for development since the 1980s. It is essential for us to have key leaders in this space to help grow. For example, we have one of our National Emerging Tech Advisory Group members here in town, which is important as tech has been a big part of Charlotte’s recent growth. Our Multifamily National Practice Co-Leader sits here, our Southeast Valuation and Advisory leader is here.  These are just a few examples that show our commitment to this market and the depth and breadth of our resources and services.


How is Cushman & Wakefield implementing new technologies to address client needs and provide better service?


Cushman & Wakefield’s property technology (PropTech) strategy focuses on strategic partnerships across our global platform with a variety of organizations, including Fifth  Wall, MetaProp NYC, Plug and Play and 1871.  The firm recently entered into technology relationships with innovative companies like Saltmine and Reonomy.  It is essential for us to partner with organizations to identify technology that will disrupt our industry.  PropTech drives efficiencies ensuring Cushman & Wakefield evolves quickly in this ever changing environment to deliver excellence to our clients.  It is our responsibility to drive the latest solutions to them as their advisor. 


How is Cushman & Wakefield addressing growth while preparing for a potential recession?


We’ve seen some inverted yield curves, and while the curve is a good historic warning sign of a recession, it doesn’t mean it’s right on the edge. The difference is that consumer confidence, which makes up 70% of the economy, continues to rise. Government spending remains strong. You’ve got a record unemployment rate continuing at an all-time low. You’ve got wage growth. As long as we continue seeing wage growth and low unemployment numbers, with consumers making up so much of that, we feel really good about where we are. We don’t see anything happening in the next year and a half to two years, but we continue to advise clients to be aware. We take a look at the “what if?” models out there. If a recession happens, what will happen? We’re always looking at those things, but right now we feel really good. 


How does Cushman & Wakefield view the commercial real estate landscape?


If you look at the past 12 months like a report card, it’s arguably the most exciting time in the history of Charlotte. We look out everyday to cranes looking into our windows, and you see the growth of the light rail happening. The airport is expanding. The logical places of growth are emerging. It followed predictable patterns, where before some of the wealth was concentrated, but now you’re seeing emerging corridors appear. Opportunity Zones help drive some of that investment. Companies are selling their properties for record prices, and moving into emerging corridors. When you think of a big city, you put a dot in the middle of the city and there are no gaps expanding outward a mile or two. Charlotte still has some opportunity to develop around those gaps, and you’re starting to see that happen.


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Spotlight On: Gary Gagnon, President & CEO, Gagnon Development

Spotlight On: Gary Gagnon, President & CEO, Gagnon Development

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read October 2019 — Gary Gagnon’s family has been involved in the real estate industry since the 1930s. Gagnon decided to follow in his family’s footsteps by creating Gagnon Development, LLC and  Gagnon Real Estate Investments, LLC. He also specializes in commercial income producing property in Central Florida. In an interview with Invest:, Gagnon described the benefits and strength of Orlando’s real estate sector. 


How would you describe the strength of Orlando’s real estate sector today?

Orlando’s real estate sector is stronger than most, since it is somewhat in a protective bubble because of being mostly tourism-driven, though we are actively trying to attract more tech-related businesses. Our unique location and economy protects us whenever there is a slowdown or recession. With low interest rates and prices increasing for commercial and residential real estate, fear is beginning to spread and people are starting to question if it is time to sell. Luckily, if the whole country takes a hit, I think Orlando is somewhat protected and should not be as harmed as much as the rest of the country would be.


Lenders are starting to get over their fears and they are starting to have a hunger to loan but are still being cautious and require larger down-payments or cross collateralization. Development is booming and we are seeing a high amount of capital in A-class products. However, the growth of new office space in Orlando has been historically stagnant and there is not enough large office space available. Orlando has several new office projects in the works, which should help satisfy the demand for new office space. Many of our international clients are choosing to build new office space instead of renting since it is less expensive than leasing at current rates. Orlando also provides an opportunity for investors to generate high cash flow with less investment dollars when compared to other cities such as Miami and New York. 

Which markets are seeing the most demand in Orlando?

Apartments continue to see great demand. E-commerce and big chain retailers transitioning to or expanding their online sales footprint have created an increased demand for large industrial space. We usually do build-to-suit projects specifically for a client’s needs, but we recently worked on a speculative flex space project with a client. That project consisted of smaller spaces with an office and showroom in the front and warehouse in the back. Along with the client, we were able to sell five of eight units before completing construction. A trend we are seeing in industrial is the smaller the square footage you build, the faster you lease or sell it. There is a demand for flex space and we are looking to expand in that area. Warehouses are in high demand, too. Many larger investors are looking for warehouses that have rail access. Office building is just now hitting its stride. Public storage is keeping up with supply and demand but we don’t see above average growth in that sector. Overall commercial real estate in Orlando is in very high demand and there is more demand than there is supply.


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Gagnon Development LLC: 

Spotlight On: Daniels Ikajevs, Chairman, The Ring Workspaces

Spotlight On: Daniels Ikajevs, Chairman, The Ring Workspaces

Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas

2 min read October 2019 — As the need for office space continues unabated, innovative solutions like coworking spaces are rising to fill the gap. One such coworking space is The Ring, which is a state-of-the-art co-working space with an emphasis on health and wellness. It is based in Downtown Clearwater. The Ring held its grand opening on April 26 and is home to over 70 companies across the Tampa Bay area, with about 110 people coming to the space on a daily basis. Invest: spoke with Daniels Ikajevs, chairman of The Ring Workspaces, about his innovative approach to office space, its collaboration with Harvard University and why Clearwater is the perfect location for The Ring Workspaces. 

Why was it important to construct The Ring to WELL standards? 

WELL standards are still fairly new, but they are becoming more commonplace. There is some similarity with LEED building standards, but WELL is more human-centric, and it looks at what is important for people inside the physical space, such as quality of the air, nutrition inside the space, access to daylight, biophilia and other health and wellness-related aspects. It also focuses on everything that LEED emphasizes, like quality of the materials, energy efficiency, and so forth. There is only one WELL-certified co-working space in the world and that is in Boston. We are in the process of getting our certification, and unlike in Boston where they have silver-level certification, we are going for the platinum level. 

What are some ways The Ring is working to help promote and foster the startup and tech ecosystem in the region? 

One of the ways we are doing this is through a collaboration The Ring entered with Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health to pilot their innovation and sustainable technology program in Tampa Bay. This will be the first U.S.-based location for this program. It will happen over the course of two years, and will consist of a first and second round in which the university professors will teach young startups how to bring their ideas into reality. They will provide a blueprint on what investors are looking for when they go out and try to raise money. At the end of the program, people who are successful in funding their ideas will receive a certificate of completion from Harvard University T.H Chan School of Public Health. 

How is Clearwater the perfect match for a coworking space like The Ring?

When we were looking at locations for The Ring, we looked at what makes Clearwater a more attractive market for startups. Clearwater offers lower real estate costs in comparison to similar Tampa and St. Petersburg markets. We are geared more toward the startup culture, and because the cost of doing business in Clearwater is less than anywhere else in Tampa Bay, we thought we could use this environment to attract more startups. As a startup you try to save money every step of the way until you reach the maturity stage of the business, so real estate is one of the biggest values that Clearwater can offer. The overall business environment in Clearwater is also in line with the four principles of The Ring, which are health, innovation, sustainability and productivity.

What does the future of coworking spaces look like? 

Coworking spaces will continue on an upward trend, especially as more startups emerge all around the Tampa Bay region. In this fast-moving business environment it is very difficult for these startups to predict the amount of space they will need in the near future, so coworking spaces like The Ring that offer flexible memberships where these businesses can upgrade or downgrade with ease are a huge benefit. Flexibility is key for startups, which is why big players in the coworking space, like Spaces, are expanding quickly to address the growing demand. It will also be interesting to see how the coworking concept works in a down market, as this has not been properly tested yet. There is no doubt in my mind that there will be a down market in real estate in the near future, so we will pay special attention to see how this market adjusts and operates when this happens. 


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Spotlight On: Jeffrey Mylton, Charlotte Market President, HomeTrust Bank

Spotlight On: Jeffrey Mylton, Charlotte Market President, HomeTrust Bank

By Felipe Rivas

2 min read October 2019 — The Charlotte Metro Area is home to a plethora of banks and financial institutions. While local and nationally-recognized banks provide similar services, many residents prefer to go to a local bank for their banking needs. HomeTrust Bank is a local bank keen on providing personalized service to its clients.  In an interview with Invest: Charlotte, HomeTrust Bank Charlotte Market President Jeffrey Mylton talks about the advantages of local banks, the challenges they face, its relationship with the local business community and the outlook for Charlotte’s banking sector.  

How would you describe the bank’s trajectory since entering the Charlotte market five years ago?

It has been a nice steady climb. We have added new relationship managers who are more in line with midmarket-type lending. We’ve also added several new divisions, one of which is equipment finance and the other is our SBA division, as well as a larger, more robust residential mortgage area. Two of the three divisions are headquartered here, as opposed to our headquarters in Asheville, so the bank realizes where a lot of the growth will come from over time.

What advantages does the Charlotte market provide over bigger national banks?

I would say a lot of customers are looking for personalized service. Just about every big bank has small business lending somewhere else. You come to them locally, but the approval process is out of the market. We provide the speed, flexibility, and personal service that a big bank can’t provide.


What will your partnership with fintech company AvidXchange accomplish?

A client that would take advantage of AvidXchange would have to be processing a lot of transactions. That’s more of a middle-market company, which is the type of company we are seeking in that middle-market segment where we would like to be more prominent. It’s a way to get our name out and have people realize our capabilities are just as good as the bigger banks.

What are the greatest challenges facing community banks in Charlotte?

A lot of community bank growth has been done by boosting the balance sheet with real estate. I think everybody understands you have to be diversified. You have to have a deposit base in order to lend. Real estate’s great, but you can’t do everything with real estate. There are so many more business opportunities for a bank when it is servicing business customers. 

As this market grows, people are looking for a bank that can satisfy their needs. Other than a few things that a big bank does, such as mergers and acquisitions, we can do what they can do. Most of the time we can provide it either more efficiently or less expensively.

We’ve seen just about all but about two community banks disappear here in Charlotte, but you’re also seeing big growth in credit unions. I think the reason that they’re becoming so active is because of the void of community banks. People would rather deal with a personal relationship where somebody locally cares. Big banks don’t provide that. So you’re seeing us thrive as one of the few left, as well as the credit unions.

How can regulators or economic engines like the Charlotte Regional Business Partnership help address some of those challenges?

They are directing attention to a need. They’re attracting customers and business to the city, which gives us an opportunity to do business. When those companies come here, they are looking to work with someone that actually works and makes decisions locally. Many large banks don’t make business decisions here.

How is HomeTrust responding to the emerging millennial market and the demands of this generation?

Whether it’s remote data capture, creating our app so you can do all your banking services on your phone, or Popmoney, where you can transfer money between different accounts, those are all things that can continue to evolve. And as they evolve we continue to make sure we have what we need to be competitive.

What’s your outlook for the finance sector in Charlotte and what emerging businesses are you involved with?

There are so many multifamily projects being done. Opportunities are there for all residents of these multifamily projects to be banking customers. We aim to serve all customer segments, millennials to retirees, as well as small to middle-market companies.

As for emerging businesses, we have relationships with quite a few of these types of companies. Those that are involved in cloud computing, data centers, and related businesses in fiber optics. Technology and digital businesses just keep changing, but we’re active on all fronts. We have quite a few cloud computing-related businesses.


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Charlotte Rising to Tech Challenge Related to Emerging Workforce

Charlotte Rising to Tech Challenge Related to Emerging Workforce

By Felipe Rivas

2 min read October 2019 – The business world was abuzz earlier in October when American conglomerate Honeywell broke ground on its new global headquarters at Legacy Union in Uptown Charlotte. Honeywell, a diversified engineering and technology giant, is the latest example of a large company flocking to the Queen City looking to expand and grow, and local leaders are doing their part to ensure success. As the economy in the Charlotte Metro Area continues to diversify, educational and economic development leaders are working to equip the workforce to thrive in the tech-based jobs coming to the area.  

Historically, Charlotte has been the second-largest banking capital of the United States, but that is broadening, said Queens University of Charlotte President Daniel Lugo. “The most exciting part is the growth of the technology sector. Charlotte is a hotbed for technology right now,” Lugo told Invest: Charlotte. “Those with strong technical skills, with an understanding of how to use data in powerful ways, how to visualize data, and how to use data to predict outcomes are going to have huge advantages,” he said. 

The university is placing a keen emphasis on producing talent that has a robust understanding of coding and data analytics. “The city and area is creating tech jobs at double the national rate and we want to be at the forefront of working with those businesses,” Lugo said. 

That means taking a community-first approach in its efforts to empower talent with tech-based skills. Its program, Digital Charlotte, aims to reduce the area’s digital divide by connecting community members to the internet and increasing their web literacy. “We are perfectly positioned to be the preeminent private university of the city and of this region, building a talent pipeline to meet the needs of a growing city’s changing economy,” Lugo said.   

In Gaston County, 30 minutes away from Charlotte, economic development leaders are already experiencing spillover from Charlotte’s growth and preparing its workforce for incoming manufacturing and tech-based jobs. “For Gaston, it’s all about the Charlotte market, tapping into it and knowing what their needs are,” said Gaston Regional Chamber CEO Steve D’Avria.

“The biggest set of industries coming in are the advanced manufacturing sectors because our labor is more affordable,” D’Avria told Invest: Charlotte.       

The chamber is focusing on education by supporting accelerated college programs for Gaston County’s high-school students, as well as programs at Gaston College centered on business and information technology career tracks and certificates. “Education has been one of our focuses,” D’Avria said.  

Connecting students and workers to jobs to practice their tech skills while they are in school is another chamber priority. “Around 60% of our members are small businesses, so we’re a connector of resources in the community,” D’ Avria said. “We’re also expanding into the co-working space in Gastonia. In Belmont, we have a program called Gaston Tech Works, and it’s all technology-focused.”


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