On Tuesday, June 12, scholars, investment influencers and government officials convened at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh to participate in working groups and discussion as part of the North Carolina Investment Forum (NCIF) Summer Symposium. As a follow up to the North Carolina Investment Forum held in November 2017, the working groups offered up their recommendations for increasing private investment opportunity and improving the business climate across the state.
Kenan Institute Director Greg Brown opened the meeting by recalling the accomplishments from the fall forum.
“Our inaugural gathering convened a really impressive set of folks interested in understanding better how the capital formation process can work better in the state of North Carolina to lead to more investment and more economic growth,” Brown said. “It was the first step in defining the direction where the investment community could build a culture of working together to facilitate growth.”
Several working groups emerged following the fall forum, in addition to an NCIF executive committee.
“I think overall there’s been a strong willingness to share ideas and I think that comes from a shared sense of purpose,” Brown said. “There’s a lot of people who care passionately about growth and people’s well-being in this state.”
He commended Kel Landis, principal and co-founder of Plexus Capital, for playing an essential role in bringing the forum to life.
Landis told the group that NCIF aims to “develop strategies for how and where the private capital community in North Carolina can have a significant impact on the economic growth of North Carolina.” He added that the forum “will remain especially cognizant of building a vibrant network of investors providing capital to North Carolina companies [that are] bridging the growing urban-rural divide,” as well as “working with governmental entities in a nonpartisan way and making sure we value and improve the diversity.”
Landis noted that in 2017, $2.4 trillion was raised in private capital for new companies —exceeding the value of the new debt equity raised in public markets the same year. He also noted the goals of NCIF fit squarely within the Kenan Institute’s mission of “putting knowledge to work.”
“Really, we’re viewing this as a place to attach and pull together the brains, the money, the capital, the resources [and] the care to move the needle on economic development in North Carolina,” said Landis, who serves on the Kenan Institute Board of Advisors.
Landis handed the floor to Napoleon Wallace, deputy secretary for rural economic development and workforce at the North Carolina Department of Commerce. Wallace also serves on NCIF’s executive committee. He shared the forum’s framework, including the three pillars of focus: new ventures, growth companies and distressed and disconnected communities.
“One is how do we make sure that we’re helping and building the startup scene,” Wallace shared. “The second is around this idea of existing companies that need to grow but still have this great potential to create outside job returns for the communities they serve. This third area [is] around distressed communities, so specifically operating in distressed parts of the state. We have many of them in North Carolina… but how are we working to make sure they will survive?”
Wallace recommended a capital provider database that would house and collect information on potential investment opportunities. He also expressed a need for a North Carolina investment ecosystem. This would provide resources to help companies find capital and help investors find companies to put their capital towards.
“The idea is, if you can coordinate those resources toward a similar goal, you’re going to have some really big impact,” he said.
The working groups then outlined their reports. Ravila Gupta, president of the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, shared the findings of the new ventures group, Brown stood in for Amit Singh, president and CEO of Spectraforce, to present the growth company report and Kyle Chavis, CEO of Lumbee Guaranty Bank, represented the distressed and disconnected communities group.
The groups’ recommendations included increasing access to capital through an investor soft-landing platform, talent identification, a North Carolina Growth Companies Discovery Engine, a North Carolina Future Prosperity Dashboard, a realization of the promise of opportunity zones and a primer on the state’s private capital landscape.
Landis returned to close the discussions by commending the work done by the NCIF thus far, while noting there still is much to do to make a difference in investing throughout the state.
North Carolina General Assembly Representative Sarah Stevens dropped in during the reception following the event to give a broader perspective of the impact NCIF is having on the state.
“I believe what you are doing is the future of North Carolina and the future of business,” Stevens said. “Your development of businesses and business opportunities is exactly what we need.”
NCIF will convene again on Oct. 24, 2018.
For more information on upcoming Kenan Institute events, click here.