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Regionalism and the Retirement of Pat Danahy

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

Principal and Co-Owner Clint Nessmith provides our blog for this edition of RDG Interactive.

I was recently at Pat Danahy’s retirement party in Greensboro, NC. It was a terrific celebration of Pat’s positive work in Greensboro and the Piedmont Triad during his 10+ years as CEO of the Greensboro Partnership. As those in attendance shared stories, I was reminded of just how far the regional cooperation needle had moved during Pat’s tenure.

Successfully achieving regional cooperation on economic development efforts can be a tall order. Egos, politics and a lack of understanding frequently muck up the best of intentions and plans. Some might throw up their hands and say, “It can’t be done!” But, with persistence, patience, the backing of top business leaders, and a bit of humility, regional cooperation can be achieved. The Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, which is home to Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, is a great example.

When Pat became head of the Greensboro Partnership, he took on a role that called for him to not only bring unity to economic development efforts in Guilford County, but also to facilitate cooperation region-wide. This must have seemed an insurmountable goal at times as Greensboro’s economic development landscape had been described as an “alphabet soup” of organizations, and it was widely acknowledged that the three major cities in the region had a history of duplication of economic development efforts and inter-region competition for jobs.

Pat immediately started working with volunteer leadership from the private and public sector to develop alignment around a strategic plan for the newly formed Greensboro Partnership, comprised of three recently merged organizations, the Greensboro Economic Development Alliance, Greensboro Chamber and Action Greensboro. With strong backing and engagement from the business community, the new organization thrived in its first five years of existence, despite being created just before the Recession, and Pat quickly turned his attention to regionalism.

Working with leaders like Mayor Allen Joines of Winston-Salem, BB&T CEO Kelly King, VF Corp CEO Eric Wiseman and Piedmont Triad Partnership executives, Pat was a tireless advocate for developing a unified regional approach to marketing, site preparation and workforce development. Additionally, cities in the region agreed to stop actively seeking to attract companies already in the Triad and would share leads if they did not have what a potential new company was seeking. Duplication of efforts was virtually eliminated and a dovetailed program of work was developed between the Piedmont Triad Partnership, Winston-Salem Alliance and Greensboro Partnership.

It was truly transformational, and occurred over the course of just 5 years…nearly overnight in economic development terms. It’s important to note that Greensboro is just one of many examples where hard work and a commitment to collaborate leads to a stronger regional approach to building community – Pittsburgh, Columbus, Orlando, Jacksonville, Oklahoma City, Dallas/Fort Worth are just a few examples of regions with whom RDG has had the privilege to work that have elevated with a more regional/collaborative approach to building their respective economies………. and there are many others. Regional cooperation can be achieved even in the most difficult of circumstances; but one universal truth is that the work of regionalism is never complete!

RDG was fortunate to work with Pat and his dedicated team of professionals over the course of his entire tenure at the Greensboro Partnership, which included two funding campaigns. We are proud to have played a small role in helping build this unprecedented level of cooperation. Pat’s legacy will be lasting and goes well beyond his imprint on regionalism, but he, like others will serve as a shining example of what can be accomplished with determination and vision. All of us at RDG wish Pat the best in the next chapter of his life.

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