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Leaders Gather in RTP to Highlight Workforce Development Resources for Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

NCAWDB and NC IDEA co-host event designed to help entrepreneurs navigate the post-pandemic talent landscape

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – May 9, 2023 – The North Carolina Association of Workforce Development Boards (NCAWDB) and NC IDEA co-hosted “Fueling the Future of the Small Business and Entrepreneurial Economy” at RTI International today. The sold-out event brought together over 150 workforce development professionals, entrepreneurial support organizations, and small business owners from across the state. The goal of the event was twofold: 1) Highlight workforce programs and initiatives designed to serve small employers; and 2) Emphasize the importance of building a talent pipeline equipped with an entrepreneurial mindset. Research shows that nearly all net new job creation comes from startups and young firms, and North Carolina needs an entrepreneurial workforce ready to fuel this growth.

“Smaller employers, especially those struggling to navigate the post-pandemic talent landscape, are asking about the workforce development resources available to them,” said Dr. Stephanie Deese, Executive Director of the NC Association of Workforce Development Boards. “Workforce Development Boards across the state are working to meet the talent needs of small businesses in their communities, and this event helped us showcase their efforts,” Deese added.

The event featured speakers representing best practices in entrepreneurial workforce development. In an afternoon session, Ben Colvin, President and Founder of Devil’s Foot Beverage Company in Asheville, shared his story of reaching out to the Mountain Area Workforce Development Board for help with training needs as he was expanding his business. While launching a new canning line for his craft-soda manufacturing facility, the Workforce Board provided a Business Accelerator Grant to bring in technicians from Charlotte and Colorado to deliver specialized training for five of Colvin’s employees. The training helped to build the skills of his team and advance his growing business. Devil’s Foot Beverage Company is also a past NC IDEA grant recipient.

“Recruiting, training, and retaining entrepreneurial talent is a top concern for many of the companies in our network,” said Thom Ruhe, President and CEO of NC IDEA. “Hard, technical skills remain important, but now more than ever, we are seeing startups prioritize critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and other entrepreneurial skills in their recruitment efforts – skills that will enable them to succeed regardless of their chosen path,” Ruhe continued.

“We are on the heels of National Small Business Week which celebrates a critical sector of our economy that represents close to 80% of all job growth,” said Rodney Carson, President of the NC Association of Workforce Development Boards. “Having this event has been a great opportunity to highlight the resources and capabilities of the local workforce boards,” Carson added.

Thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan through the NC Department of Commerce, there are more workforce development resources available for small businesses as they adapt to the evolving talent landscape. To find and contact your regional Workforce Development Board, visit

About NC IDEA Foundation
NC IDEA is an independent private foundation committed to empowering North Carolinians to achieve their entrepreneurial potential. Through our powerful combination of competitive grants and programs, and a network of strategic partners, we help entrepreneurs when they need it most. NC IDEA’s resources are highly competitive, enabling the Foundation to support North Carolina’s most ambitious entrepreneurs. We believe entrepreneurs transform communities and view our work as a catalyst for positive change. Learn more at

About The North Carolina Association of Workforce Development Boards (NCAWDB)
NCAWDB serves as the voice for workforce development in North Carolina, working collectively to plan, coordinate, oversee, and deliver workforce solutions through the NCWorks system. Our Boards help more people and businesses across the state gain access to programs and services that make North Carolina one of the most skilled, productive, and motivated workforce systems in the nation. Local Workforce Development Boards are the conveners of the workforce system on a local level in the state of North Carolina. They are business-led and are charged with bringing together industry, education, labor, community, government, and other stakeholders in workforce to develop demand-driven strategies connected to regional economies and labor markets. Learn more at