The Global Opportunities Center Grant

Glynlowe/ Flickr

Glynlowe/ Flickr

Lauren Cherry
  Staff Writer

Last Monday, The Global Opportunities Center of Greensboro was awarded a $500,000 grant as the first place prize in the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Center challenge issued as a part of President Obama’s executive order establishing a White House Council on the subject.

About 2 years ago, Greensboro was awarded $1 million for winning the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative issued to cities across the United States. Originally Greensboro, NC, Hartford, Connecticut and Las Vegas, NV competed for the initial grant. After the city of Greensboro won the initial phase, they hosted a prize competition in which Greensboro organizations were asked to submit proposals to create jobs and generate economic growth for the city.

According to the News and Record, the winning group consisted of several community members in Greensboro: Dr. Chi Anyansi-Archibong from North Carolina A & T University, Dr. Cynthia V. Clemons from Bennett College, Mark Hagenbuch of Guilford Technical Community College, Owen George of the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center, Cindy Thompson director of nonprofit Boundless Impact and Bryan Toney, associate vice chancellor of UNCG’s Office of Economic Engagement represented by Bryan Toney, the Associate Vice Chancellor of the office.

Toney took office at UNCG in 2014 after holding a position as director of the North Carolina Entrepreneurship Center (NCEC) since 2011 according to UNCG’s Campus Weekly. Since starting the position, one of Toney’s notable projects includes heading the collaborative entrepreneurship program between NCEC, Lloyd International Honors College and the Louvain School of Management in Belgium.

Toney stated that the process for putting together a team started in Spring of 2012, when Obama’s executive order established the Whitehouse Council on Strong Cities, Strong Communities. Before this challenge was announced, phase 1 of Opportunity Greensboro’s Union Square had began, the first building focusing on healthcare.

The Global Opportunities Center is made up of about 2,000 people including chancellors and presidents of local universities as well as business leaders. In brainstorming for the Union Square project, they discussed the topic of global entrepreneurship.

“So our group looked at that and said ‘oh, that sounds like what we’ve been working on,’” Toney responded “because the whole idea was this would stimulate job growth and create opportunities for students and community members and businesses and a lot of different folks.”

The first round of the competition consisted of judges narrowing down the number of proposals to six finalists. Of the six finalists, the Global Opportunities Center was ranked number six which Toney credits for their win. “We came out as the underdog,” Toney stated, “We probably just worked a little bit harder. It’s because we knew that we had a bit of a hill to climb.”

The project’s vision is to join students with international interests with smaller companies looking to take their companies global. “The vision for this is a one stop shop for anything global,” said Toney, “So if you’re a student and you have an interest in doing something internationally, particularly working internationally or working with a company that does a lot of international work, that’s where you go.”

In developing this project, the group surveyed groups of incoming and outgoing international students. According to Toney, the general majority of these students had some interest in working internationally and were unsure of where to start the process.

“We have a lot of this stuff happening already,” stated Toney, “The problem is is not everything is connected. So a lot of this is about converging all of these resources we’ve got.” The answer to this problem, Toney says, is setting up the Global Opportunities Center as a separate enterprise for students, faculty and community members from all over Greensboro.

Greensboro is nationally ranked #12  for the percentage of GDP driven by exports and #2 in the percentage of people working for a foreign company, according to a 2014 Brookings Institution report.

“Our focus on the business side, it’s not on the big companies. It’s the small to medium-sized companies, which there’s a whole lot more of them,” Toney said, “that often time lack two things that keeps them from really growing, particularly outside of the U.S.— that’s knowledge and manpower.”

The Global Opportunities Center is intended not only as an opportunity for students to turn their international skill set into employment but also as a “soft landing spot” for international and domestic companies to explore the area of Greensboro as a potential site for global expansion.

On why Toney thinks Greensboro will succeed with this project he said, “This is one area where we all have expertise. Every college has been doing something international. Every college is sending some students abroad and receiving some international students.”

The significance of funding like this is the attention that it brings to areas like Greensboro explained Toney. “This really provides the catalyst. It’s easy… It’s somewhat easy to come up with ideas. It’s much more difficult to turn those ideas into reality because, you know, big ideas require money. ”

The center plans to offer educational seminars to those wishing to learning more about global business as well as consulting services to international and local offices looking for new sites within the U.S.

The group is seeking additional funding in the amount of $2 million in hopes of opening its office downtown next year.

Categories: Greensboro, lauren cherry, News

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