Opportunity Next, Now

It takes time to move a needle – especially one that’s tracking numerous facets of a regional economy.

By the looks of things, the three-county region has made some serious – and seriously fast – progress on many of the measures it sought to affect with its Opportunity Next strategic plan.

Launched last summer with input from hundreds of individuals and scores of organizations, Opportunity Next,  (view the full report card here) was developed to make the region globally competitive for investment by:

  • Identifying the region’s existing strengths and aligning them with global business trends
  • Identifying key weaknesses and finding ways to strengthen them
  • Motivating a diverse army of regional stakeholders to collaborate and make it all happen.

Facilitated by nationally respected economists – Avalanche Consulting  and McCallum Sweeney — Opportunity Next arrived on the scene with some fanfare. Amy Holloway, President of Avalanche Consulting, returned earlier this summer to deliver a first-year report card on results.

The good news: our region earned a B, across the board. And that’s saying something, considering how fast 12 months goes.

Of particular note in our “strengths” column:

  • Regional economic growth indicators were strong and, in many ways, outpaced the U.S.
  • Also in our “win” columns: Workforce and Talent Development  (witness Trident Tech’s reach, progress on Graduate Charleston, and cradle-to-career efforts);
  • Marketing/Business Development: the CRDA participated in 32 national & international marketing events; met with over 100 site selection consultants, and significantly upgraded their website and marketing toolkit; and coordinated efforts with the CVB on events like the PGA Championship
  • Entrepreneurship: progress at CURI  and on key assets like a Regional Competitiveness Center, helped speed our progress.

The region earned its lowest marks in two of its toughest priority areas: infrastructure improvements and leadership.

  • As population and Port activities increase, infrastructure Improvements are necessary to support the area’s economic progress. Based on slow progress in this area, the region earned a D+.
  • The second lowest grade came for Leadership. While private sector and educational involvement in the execution of Opportunity Next is improving, many task forces are still undeveloped, and progress overall is slower than desired. A truly regional effort, the report points out, requires a truly regional response. It doesn’t happen without human sweat equity – especially the kind that comes from people of influence.

Armed with the report card, and a renewed vigor, the Opportunity Next “Alignment Committee” and others are expected to continue addressing the region’s greatest opportunities. They’ll need the collective effort of this community to achieve the goal of sustained economic prosperity.

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