Entrepreneurs Will Lead Our Comeback!

Dr. Barry O’Brien, Dean UNCP Business School

These are trying times for sure, but they are also exciting times, and the stage is being set for dramatic growth throughout our Sandhills Prosperity region.   I firmly believe entrepreneurs will lead us out of this economic downturn, as they always do.  And the stronger we make our entrepreneurship ecosystem, the faster we will recover and prosper.  That’s why I’m pumped about all the great work being done. 

This new Sandhills Entrepreneurship Engagement Network (SEEN) will make it easier than ever for startups and small businesses to get the help they need, from ideation, funding and planning to mentoring, marketing and networking.  They succeed, jobs are created, and the economic vitality of the whole region improves.

And resources for entrepreneurs are sprouting up everywhere.  Incubators and entrepreneurship hubs are being built and improved in Whiteville, Fayetteville State University, Tabor City, Laurinburg, Red Springs, Elizabethtown, and Pembroke.   And there’s more to come!

SBA is expanding their footprint in the area’s 8 community colleges and 5 universities.  Funding for major economic development projects are being considered from Montgomery and Moore to Cumberland and Columbus!   And through the SEEN, these entrepreneur resource partners will share best practices among themselves, so startups will get proven, valuable consulting, programs and events. 

Land of the Brave!

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke is booming too!  Buildout of UNCP’s new $38 million business school is on track for a fall 2021 opening.  Enrollment in the business school is up, with undergraduate now at 1,200 students, and MBA at 1,110 – making  us the fastest growing business school in the state.  Finally, we have just finished a successful semester of in-class instruction.  Not easy, but we got through it by being diligent, wearing masks, socially distancing, and constantly cleaning.

New UNCP Business School, Open Fall 2021

The Thomas Entrepreneurship Hub incubator is full and helping businesses recover from the economic downturn, and across the street, buildout of the $6.5 million AS Thomas Center, our state’s only opportunity zone project, is underway.  The AS Thomas Center is set for a January 2021 opening, and will include Pembroke’s first brewpub, casual dining establishments and apartments.

Along with our booming business education programs, UNCP has expanded its agriculture and health sciences  programs to better serve the region.  As a traditional agricultural area, we are moving to help farmers and food service businesses be more innovative and improve their AgHealth competitiveness.  

Sandhills Prosperity Zone

The 10-county Sandhills Prosperity Zone includes Montgomery, Moore, Hoke, Richmond, Scotland, Robeson, Cumberland, Columbus, Bladen and Sampson counties. 

Feel free to contact me at Michael.Obrien@uncp.edu if you have any questions or need help.  Michael “Barry” O’Brien is the Dean of the UNCP Business School, former Dean at Francis Marion, and a graduate of UNCP.