'); } -->
For the past few months, Derrick Minor has been spearheading an effort by the city of Raleigh to help businesses grow by connecting with one another, and helping with Triangle efforts to continue attracting entrepreneurial ventures.
Minor, previously the director of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, says all the pieces are in place for the city to be among the best in the country within five years – and a main goal of his job as innovation and entrepreneurship manager is to make sure the pieces come together.
Responses have been edited for length.
Q: Why did the city decide to bring you into this role now?
Through various conversations with local entrepreneurs and leaders, the city decided to put the flag in the ground and invest, and to basically grow and support the companies in Raleigh. … Our focus is on entrepreneurship in companies that have potential for high growth and development. Tech, life sciences and fashion, areas like that.
The biggest thing for us is not only how do we keep them here but also how do we help them grow. The city realized we need to do a better job engaging them.
Q: How exactly does your job help the city engage businesses better?
No. 1, I identify entrepreneurs and high-growth opportunities in Raleigh. I’ve come across new companies that are here – not necessarily brand new, like just a one-person show that just graduated from college, but companies that have been here but are not part of the community. I identify and document what’s here.
No.2, I ask how we engage those guys. That takes spending time out in the business community, being that go-to guy that connect them to resources, which is the third thing I do – I make sure business owners know what’s there.
The No. 4 thing I do is the support piece of it. I’m not really talking about monetary support that’s necessarily directly from the city, but more about creating awareness. What’s going on in the city? What’s going on around the Triangle? This is a Triangle-wide initiative, so we need to have conversations with leaders throughout the area to tell the stories of entrepreneurs and what the Triangle has to offer, because that’s how we’re going to build more jobs here.
Q: How can that story be told better – and who does it need to be told to?
Telling local business, local entrepreneurs that hey, you’re not alone in this thing – that’s important. There hasn’t been this robust community, or really a community at all, within the local entrepreneurs of just knowing what’s going on. This helps spur additional passion and excitement.
It’s not me trying to lead anything, because it has to be entrepreneurs in the private sector leading. They’re the ones making the investment, creating jobs, taking the risks, but we can facilitate and bring it all together.
Telling it locally is great because traditional business areas, a lot of financial services, legal services, those guys can get engaged in it. Local citizens can get in engaged and should get excited about what’s going on locally. We need to continue to grow passion and energy here in the community.
And companies outside the market definitely have to be told the story of innovation in this area.
Q: Aside from established, obvious businesses around Raleigh, what’s going on?
Some things that might surprise people is the fashion industry as well as breweries. That’s another emerging cluster that people might smirk at. They think it’s a bunch of college kids coming together to have a kegger, but it’s a lot more than that.
There are already a lot of breweries, and there are three or four more that will be opening the doors in the next few months.
It adds an additional amenity to the Triangle to help bolster and foster that entrepreneurship. Let’s say workers from a local software company want to go grab a beer. They can go two or three blocks and get something from here.
Fashion, brewing and product development are all ones people may not hear as often.
With N.C. State, we need to keep showcasing what’s going on in their campus. It’s the No. 1 college of textiles in the country. The college of design, the college of engineering, all of those help out, and it’s smack dab in the middle of Raleigh.
Q: What do you see Raleigh looking like five, 10 years from now?
Five to 10 years down the road, it’s easy to see this being one of the top five entrepreneurial destinations in the country. That’s a big feat.
Obviously you have Boston, New York, Silicon Valley, Austin, places like that. But with a lot of hard work and collaboration, I think it’s definitely attainable to be on that level. We just need to keep telling the story of the Triangle and what we have to offer.
Q: Do you think the city has everything in place to make that happen?
All the right pieces are here. I think they’re just not working together just yet, I guess you could say. We have all the right pieces in mix, now it’s time to pull it together to complete the puzzle.