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What to Do When the Fish Go Away?

Design, Art & Technology Symposium 2010
DATS 2010:"Imagine Big" Focus of Creative Economy Panel
By Michelle Ferrier


Conventional wisdom used to say, “Give people a fish, they eat for a day. Teach them how to fish, they eat for a lifetime.”

In today’s economic times however, even learning how to fish is not enough, according to the speakers on the “Perspectives on the Triad” panel at the Design, Art & Technology Symposium on Oct. 9.

“We need to show them how to create things when the fish go away,” said Leslie Boney, associate vice president for economic development research, policy and planning for the University of North Carolina system.

Nolo Martinez, interim director of the Center for New North Carolinians moderated the panel that included Leslie Boney; Daniel Yohannes, senior director of drug discovery at Targacept, Inc. in Winston-Salem; Dennis Quaintance, president of Quaintance-Weaver restaurants and hotels in Greensboro; and, Portia Mount, vice president of global marketing at the Center for Creative Leadership.

In the Piedmont Triad area, the economy has shifted away from textiles and tobacco. Now, more than 22,000 people work in creative jobs in the area.

“We’re trying to create a knowledge economy from a textile and tobacco-based economy, Daniel said. “To translate to that new economy requires the creation of cultural risk taking. To make this into a moneymaking venture is going to require entrepreneurship.”

Daniel suggests we have to answer, “How do we create that culture of risk taking and entrepreneurship?

“Everybody has to think of themselves as creators of their companies or the future they want to create,” said Leslie. He believes that our environment needs to be conducive to creative people. “It’s time to make an effort to capture those we want to hold on to,” he said.

Portia also believes the region is bleeding a lot of talent. “How do we get all of these bright young people coming out of these higher education institutions and get them to stay? Portia said. “How do we incentivize these young people to stay in the Triad to build this creative knowledge economy?”

The group identified a few areas where the region could begin to imagine a new way.

Dennis believes that we have a lot of momentum in environmental health. “Portland bought a donut worth of easements around it to prevent sprawl,” he said. We should be one of the most ecologically progressive areas in the world.”

Daniel says we could improve our mass transit by creating alternatives. “If we commit to a mass transit system that reaches into our rural areas, we could live in Asheville and work in Winston-Salem. Or live in Raleigh and work in Winston-Salem.”

Portia said we need to help create new businesses. “Help small businesses and bring in capital and infrastructure to help those businesses,” she offered.

Leslie said we need to make choices about strategic priorities. “We need to market ourselves for what we can do – even while we’re becoming it.”

Dennis said that we’ve got to begin to imagine a future where we measure of standard of living beyond quantifying it with things. Einstein said “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used to create them.”

“We lack audacity,” he said. “I love the idea of beginning – you can’t accomplish what you have not yet imagined. If we had these common objectives – then dream big. Past generations have been audacious in what they dreamed.”