2 min read November 2023 — In an interview with Invest:, Mark Lawson, president of the Cary Chamber of Commerce, discussed the past year’s milestones, including robust job growth and record-low unemployment rates. He emphasized the Chamber’s innovative approach, vision for the future, workforce development, and advocacy efforts with local government leaders to foster a pro-business environment in Cary.
What are the recent milestones and updates over the past 12 months for the Cary Chamber of Commerce?
Over the past year, we have witnessed robust job growth in Healthcare, IT, the overall tech sector, Cleantech, and Advanced Manufacturing. These key industry sectors remain strong in our community. Our economy is thriving, with record-low unemployment rates, reaching as low as 2.5% for several months in 2023. Additionally, an influx of innovative entrepreneurs has relocated to our area, contributing to our already strong economy. We are fortunate to have a diverse set of economic metrics that continue to bolster our community.
How is the Chamber positioning itself to capitalize on the opportunities in the Cary markets?
From the Chamber’s perspective, we aim to grow and expand our membership, while enhancing our brand and programming, while continuing to serve our members with high-quality events and programs. To achieve this, we will provide innovative programming, particularly for small businesses to support economic development. Additionally, we maintain our focus on workforce development and education. We also seek partnerships with previously untapped companies in our market to raise awareness about the Chamber’s role in supporting businesses in Cary. We want to continue establishing ourselves as the voice of business in the community.
How do you see the Cary Chamber of Commerce evolving to meet changing member needs and what is your vision for its future in addressing these shifts?
We want to continue diversifying the Chamber’s membership, aligning it with the diversity of our community and businesses in Cary and those considering joining. This means diversifying our programming to meet various company and community needs based on market demands. We’re exploring new initiatives, including a women’s leadership conference, CEO roundtables, and several other initiatives while maintaining our core focus of connecting businesses with our community. We aim to be more innovative and attract emerging professionals to join our chamber early in their careers, aligning them with our events and programming. We will continue our mission of educating our community on the benefits of being aligned with and a member of the chamber.
What are the top skill sets in demand in Cary and Raleigh-Durham and how are you addressing the workforce training gap?
In our local area, Healthcare is always in high demand, particularly nurses, technicians, specialty physicians, and hospital support personnel. The IT sector, especially software and technology, also has numerous job openings, given the rapid changes in fields like artificial intelligence (AI). Focusing on expanding Advanced Manufacturing is critical, as our market has a strong manufacturing presence. We collaborate closely with Wake Tech Community College, NC State, and local schools to prepare students for the jobs of the future, with a focus on promoting and supporting STEM as much as possible. The demand for a larger workforce is a positive challenge due to our local economy and it will remain a focus in our region for some time.
What upcoming collaborations are you excited about to further the Chamber’s mission, particularly in education and workforce development?
We will continue to work closely with our education and economic development partners to make sure we stay focused on the changing workforce needs in our market. We work closely with the Wake County public school system, focusing on STEM and workforce development initiatives. Education and economic development go hand in hand. It’s already a big focus in our Chamber and will continue to be, aligning resources for economic growth and supporting our education partners. We continue to work closely with our companies throughout our market with any of their workforce and overall expansion needs, emphasizing the importance of education and workforce development partnerships to stay focused on the constant changes in our workforce of the future.
What are the primary areas of focus in your advocacy work with local government leaders?
The Chamber’s Government Relations division collaborates closely with local, state, and federal officials, particularly with the town of Cary. We work closely with our partners and the business community to help support and advocate any needs being voiced by them and act as a liaison between business and government partners, emphasizing a pro-business tax climate and quality of life. We have several events that bring our local, state, and federal government partners together throughout the year, which is always very beneficial to all parties involved. It keeps everyone closely aligned and working together, which has worked very well in Cary for decades.
What are the key concerns when representing businesses to elected officials and government entities?
There are no concerns that stand out, due to a very strong local government that works closely with our business community, and we have a favorable tax environment that helps with recruiting and expanding businesses. Quality of life and infrastructure are well addressed by our town, along with maintaining a pro-business climate. These factors make Cary stand out nationally and internationally. Quality of place and life, along with a business-friendly environment is our secret sauce, supported by outstanding leadership from our local government.
How is the macroeconomic environment affecting your approach to working with members and government officials?
Cary’s diverse economy has remained resilient despite higher-than-expected interest rates, with strong job growth, low unemployment rates, and a robust local, regional, and state economy. The town’s economic strength and the diversity of our companies and the local economy in Cary have helped it weather the challenges posed by the interest rate environment. Cary is well-positioned for continued growth, making it one of the best places in the United States for robust economic development in the long run.
What are your key priorities for the Chamber in the next two to three years?
The Cary Chamber’s focus will remain on expanding and diversifying our events and programming to cater to the evolving needs of the business community and to attract emerging professionals entering our market. We are committed to ensuring that our programming and events align with the needs of our membership. We will remain laser-focused on maintaining a strong economy in Cary, working closely with our companies, local government, and our economic development partners.
My primary focus is on making sure we are aligned well in our community and region, with a focus on the future, making sure we are adapting to the needs of our community, which will position us well for decades to come. Long-term and strategic thinking will guide us in managing this growth effectively, diversifying our membership, and expanding our programming, all of which are crucial for our Chamber’s sustained success.
Regionally, we have a bright future, supported by three Tier 1 universities and a top-notch community college, along with strong partnerships for workforce and talent development. With the growth of tech companies and other emerging industries and the continued expansion of the Research Triangle Park, we are ideally positioned for long-term economic growth, better than anywhere in the United States.
From an overall outlook, I believe the future for our region, and specifically Cary, is exceedingly positive. The sky’s the limit, given our robust economic infrastructure and diverse workforce.
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