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A History of Serving Eastern North Carolina

The NC East Alliance is a regional economic development organization representing 29 counties in eastern North Carolina. NC East leads advocacy efforts in the region by convening stakeholders to identify important regional challenges and to ultimately pursue solutions to these challenges.

NC East Alliance has a history of economic development in eastern NC since the early 1990s. The organization as it is known today is the result of a merger of the Northeast Partnership and Eastern Partnership in 2014. NC East Alliance has marketed eastern NC as a diverse regional home to a variety of established industries including agriculture, aviation, pharmaceuticals, boat building, healthcare, and many others. NC East staff recruited companies from around the world and sold them on the opportunity of locating their operations in an affordable region with a high quality of life. Over the years NC East has facilitated over 100 company visits to the region showcasing each county’s assets. Many of these visits were international companies looking to establish a presence in the United States. In 2020, the COVID pandemic brought the entire world to a halt. International travel was grounded all over the world and borders were closed. This caused a pause in the international recruitment efforts of NC East. During this time, NC East staff and board of directors conducted a SWOT analysis of the organization and came to the conclusion that the organization should shift its efforts and focus on developing and strengthening the homegrown workforce of the region.

From 2020-2022 NC East worked on developing this new initiative starting with creating a steering committee of 29 public school districts and 10 community colleges. In 2023, STEM East Industry In Schools was announced (Vision 2023). NC East hosted its first three STEM East Industry In Schools Teacher Leadership Institutes highlighting Healthcare, Aviation, and Smart Agriculture in the region (Read more here). With the success of the steering committee and the teacher leadership institutes, it was announced in July 2023 that NC East had been awarded a 4-year $1.6 million grant in support of the STEM East Industry In Schools Initiative.

In early September 2023 the STEM East Industry in Schools Steering Committee met for the second time to develop practice areas in which the committee should focus. The committee agreed upon 4 focus areas: STEM Schools of Distinction, Advanced Technical Education, Industry In Schools Clusters, and Regional Career and Job Fairs. A few weeks after the Steering Committee meeting it was announced that NC East Alliance had been awarded a $15 million appropriation from the North Carolina Legislature in support of the continued development of the STEM East Industry In Schools Initiative.

NC East Alliance is the only regional economic development organization focusing on teachers as a workforce. The teachers of eastern NC are a critical economic development asset of the region as they teach and train our regional homegrown workforce of the future.  The development of a homegrown workforce in tandem with marketing and talent attraction is critical to support the continued recruitment of industry to the region.