Economic Leadership is a company created by Ted Abernathy, that brings together Ted’s experience of managing city, county and regional economic development organizations for almost 30 years with the research, best practice and citizen engagement capabilities honed through directing the work of one the country’s premier think tank, the Southern Growth Policies Board, and later as the economic development policy advisor to the Southern Governors Association.

Economic Leadership’s ability to help economic development organizations is enriched by the broad nature of its work. Economic Leadership has completed strategic plans for community colleges (Guilford Technical and Durham Technical Community College), and airports (Raleigh-Durham, and Asheville). We have also developed dashboards for Southern Governors Association and Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster by conducting the research and creating the data visualizations. Our work has involved strategic preparation and trend projections for international science parks, private businesses, sports franchises, and health care practitioners.

Strategic Plan Assessment and Development

During the past five years, Economic Leadership has lead the development of State Economic Development and Economic Competitiveness Strategies for the state chambers of commerce in Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas and for both the state Chamber and the Department of Commerce in North Carolina. For these efforts, Economic Leadership assessed and presented extensive competitiveness and trends research; designed and facilitated strategic engagement processes; designed, conducted and analyzed stakeholder surveys; created metrics for measuring future success and made presentations to large state gatherings.

Economic Leadership has also completed multi-stakeholder economic development strategic plans for many communities including complex regions such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Piedmont Triad, Northwest Arkansas, Virginia’s Dan River Region, and the Southern Carolina Alliance (SC). In each case stakeholder engagement and developing actionable and measurable strategies was important.

Citizen and Stakeholder Engagement

Over the past five years we have directed broad citizen engagement programs for the Kettering Foundation on community economic vitality and the future role of higher education. The Delta Regional Authority (DRA) engaged Economic Leadership to manage the development of its new five-year strategic plan. Our role was to develop and complete a citizen and stakeholder survey, facilitate listening sessions across the 8-state region, and to assist the Governor’s offices in each of the states to develop a strategic plan to align with the DRA’s new plan. Economic Leadership develops and conducts stakeholder surveys, interviews and focus groups for many of our clients and for other consultants.

Workforce Assessments

One of the most pressing economic issues facing many communities today is workforce. Economic Leadership has assessed local workforce conditions for the Springdale Arkansas Chamber of Commerce, the Durham, North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky State Chamber and the Occupational Industrialization Centers of Rocky Mount, North Carolina.  For these contracts, we conducted interviews and created engagement processes with local businesses and local workforce professionals, making specific recommendations to move the communities toward a more demand-driven workforce focus. Recently we completed an assessment of industry and occupational trends to help support the development of a strategic plan for GoVirginia’s Region 3, a a deep dive into the supply and demand for Diesel Technicians in Arkansas.

Leadership Assessment and Board Development

Our clients have taught us that leadership is the key to strategic action. Ted is also a partner in a company, Business SMARTS Suite, which has developed four online assessment tools, including Group LEAD. Group LEAD helps organizations improve their group decision processes by focusing on (1) strategic perspectives, (2) innovation mindset, (3) getting things done, and (4) working together. These tools are used to help our clients better implement the actions to achieve their strategic goals.

Public Speaking

Ted speaks to groups across the country and internationally on many topics including the economy, the future of work, seeing the future through trends analysis and improving leadership. In North Carolina, Ted delivered State of the Region presentations for the Research Triangle Region, The Piedmont Triad, and the Eastern Region. In the past year, he keynoted conferences for the International Economic Development Council, The Southern Economic Development Council, The Southern Regional Education Board, The National Association of Workforce Professionals, The International Eisenhower Fellowships, Leadership Arkansas, Leadership Triangle, the Society of Industrial Realtors, The North Carolina Association of CPAs, The Alabama Arts Council, The Seattle Eastside Futures Conference, numerous corporate board and staff leadership events and many more.

Competitiveness Assessments

Economic Leadership maintains a large database of competitive factors for states and cities. Using multi-factor, client informed, data analysis we can identify competitive strengths and weaknesses for our clients. They can quickly assess their competitors and tailor their marketing to promote their strengths.

Future Trends Analysis

What is the impact of shifting demographics, technological advancements, and urbanizations. Will the changes in workforce skill requirements make us more, or less, competitive? What will be the impact of changing office demands, retail consolidations, or immigration policy. Economic Leadership has developed a trend analysis capability that can be customized for clients trying to anticipate what the new normal will be.