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Rising Markets

I was lucky to recently attend a State of the Region gathering in Greenville. This event was hosted by NCEast Alliance—an Eastern North Carolina economic development initiative. NCEAST Alliance like Roanoke River Partners – though on a much bigger scale – is bringing public and private partners together to yield economic advantages for our region.

This convening is always a great chance to mingle with current and potential regional partners. As in past years, I saw some of our region’s tourism and chamber leaders as well as some of our town and county staff and elected officials.

One of the reasons that I had looked forward to attending this year’s event was to hear the keynote speaker– Chad Dickerson, former CEO of Etsy. Chad and I attended the same Pitt County high school (him decades after me) and when I worked in Pitt County I knew his father but I had never met Chad.

I had, however, heard a good bit about Chad’s rise in various technology-based management positions – including Etsy. Under Chad’s direction from July 2011 to May 2017, Etsy grew into a global community of creative entrepreneurs and their customers.

I was hopeful that being in the room with Chad for his “homecoming” presentation would have implications for the work we are doing here along the Roanoke. As it turns out, it did.

In addition, to taking us through his journey since leaving North Carolina—he offered insights about emerging markets which have tremendous value for us and our economic development strategies for the future.

Obviously when considering current and future trends, millennials are a market of interest – you know, today’s twenty to thirty somethings. Chad shared that millennials are very different consumers than the generations before them. Technology is a big part of who they are. They live and navigate the landscape in very different ways than previous generations. Understanding these differences offers opportunities to engage them and in doing so, increase our economic opportunities.

Chad revealed that the “rising markets” millennials present include calm, small and unique experiences. Many are professional techies, work in urban environments and yearn for alternative experiences as a counter balance in their lives.

This is a generation that often chooses to collect experiences versus things. Many are minimalists. They live and travel light – seeking out great food and drinks, beautiful scenery and new adventures.

As luck would have it, that is just what we have here along the Roanoke. Our river and natural assets are great retreats if you are seeking quiet and calm. Our small towns are brimming full of rich history, interesting stories and unique experiences to be savored.

Geographically, we are nicely positioned to draw increasing numbers of these young professionals from urban areas like Richmond, Raleigh, and Greenville to unwind, relax and enjoy the “simple pleasures” found throughout our region.

Now, it is up to us to develop and market our assets in ways that will attract millennials. This means we should think about what millennials are looking for, what we have and how we can connect the two.

That is just what Roanoke River Partners – and the small towns we work with – are interested in doing. If you have thoughts to share or would like to join us, we would like to hear from you!

Carol Jones Shields is the Executive Director of Roanoke River Partners, Inc. You can contact her at (252) 798-3920 or director@roanokeriverpartners.org. You can learn more about Roanoke River Partners at www.roanokeriverpartners.org.