The Institute Blog

The Latest News in Economic Development

FAST Act Boosts Opportunities for Business Growth

Passage of the FAST Act will increase opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses in the transportation industry.

Small businesses owned by women and minorities are expected to see increasing opportunities in the transportation industry as a result of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) signed into law by President Obama on December 4, 2015. The legislation is the first long-term transportation bill signed by Congress in over a decade and will provide much-needed funding certainty to state highway transportation agencies and public transit systems to plan and complete capital projects. The bill provides $305 billion in funding over the next five years to fund an array of projects ranging from bridge repair and replacements, highway infrastructure development as well as transit rail projects.

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The Time is Now for Small Business Success

Image of Allstate/USA Today Small Business Barometer

Traveling around most urban areas of the United States and witnessing the large number of new businesses and the volume of residential housing under construction certainly gives the impression that now is a good time to be in business. Most economic indicators support what is evident on the street. For instance, the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce recently announced that construction spending in January 2016 was up 10.4 percent from January 2015. Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, was recently quoted in a USA Today article saying, “The environment (for small businesses) is certainly as good as it’s been since before the recession" of 2007-09.

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Women-Owned Small Businesses Surpass Federal Contracting Goal

Image of 3 business women

On March 2, 2016, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that the federal government has surpassed its 5 percent contracting goal for Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) for the first time in history. In fiscal year 2015 (FY15), 5.05 percent or $17.8 billion of all federal small business-eligible contracting dollars were awarded to WOSBs, the first time this specific benchmark has ever been reached. Since taking over as administrator of the Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet has made it a top priority to increase federal contracting opportunities for WOSBs. “Meeting this goal means 5 percent is no longer our ceiling but our foundation upon which to build,” Contreras-Sweet said.

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Connect NC Bond Proposal a Potential Boost to Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs)

Image of machines lined up on a construction site

On March 15, 2016, North Carolina voters can support or reject an initiative—titled the Connect NC Bond—to borrow $2 billion to spend on infrastructure investments, while also voting in the state primaries for presidential candidates in the November election. If passed, the Connect NC Bond proposal will fund more than 120 projects across the state, ranging from $135,000 for improvements at Fort Macon State Park in Carteret County, to over $300 million for statewide water/sewer loans and grants by the N.C. Department of Environmental Control.

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Three Habits of Highly Effective Networking

Illustration of two individuals networking and shaking hands

Networking is something everyone in business does in some shape or form. For some, it involves attending conferences and events specifically designed to enhance meet-and-greet or wine-and-dine opportunities, and for others it consists of one-on-one conversations and informal connections between colleagues.

There are a plethora of books, seminars, and workshops that teach business people how to become more effective at networking. However, dusting off an old copy of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” can provide a major jumpstart to improving overall networking skills. Practicing these habits can put you far ahead of the people you may encounter simply handing out a fistful of business cards and making not-so-interesting small talk at the next conference or business meeting. Although Covey’s book provides seven habits for more personal effectiveness, three of them relate directly to creating better networking relationships.

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AGC Report Shows Positive Signs for Construction Despite Shortage of Workers

Image of construction workers on tractor

Construction industry economists agree that most sectors of the construction industry will continue to experience growth in 2016. The recent 2016 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook Report released by the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America found that 71 percent of firms plan to increase their workforce in 2016. However, many industry experts believe that these companies will continue to find a shortage of both skilled and non-skilled workers available for employment.

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NOW LEASING - Commercial Office Space

Institute building facade

Prime office space is currently available in at 114 West Parrish Street downtown Durham Mechanics and Farmers Bank Building - City Center District. Details of the space are as follows:

2nd Floor

  • Office Suite - 5 offices (960 sq. ft.)
  • Utilities included
  • Cable ready, separate phone and internet connections
  • Office accessible through stairwell and elevator
  • Alarm system
  • Office cleaning - 3 times per week
  • Restrooms (shared with other floor tenants)
  • Monthly parking available through the City of Durham
  • One (1) month security deposit required
  • Available February 15, 2016

For more information contact - (919) 956-8889.


Three Tips to Keeping New Year's Resolutions

Deliberately setting smaller, incremental resolutions and goals within a shorter timeframe increases the probability of success.

At some point, most people make some form of New Year’s resolutions. While some make resolutions in a formal fashion by writing them down and sharing them with colleagues, friends or family, others just formulate a private expression of what they would like to achieve in the New Year. While it is true that any day is a good day to start on a course of self-improvement, January 1 seems like the most logical time and place to start.

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Bonding Education Program Helps Firms Succeed

Image of Sugar Creek I-77 Express Lanes Bonding Education Program Group

Many minority-, woman-owned, and small businesses view surety bonding as a barrier to contract opportunities in the government sector. The reasons for this viewpoint generally fall into three distinct categories: First, some believe that the process for being approved for bonding has historically been discriminatory toward diverse firms owned by minorities and women. Second, others believe that surety bonding is just a form of insurance for the government agency that has no direct connection to a company’s ability to successfully complete a contract, and therefore favors large firms that have more financial strength. Third, that bonding is often used as an administrative barrier to keep new firms from competing with established firms in the industry.

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The Evolution of Business

Image of dinosaurs just before extinction

No company, idea, or industry is “too big to fail” if it does not adapt and evolve as the marketplace demands. Whether the conversation is about manufacturing, taxis, cell phones, or advertising, any company still doing business the way it did a decade ago is mostly likely on the decline or in the process of going out of business completely. Why? - because the nature of business is change; and companies that don’t evolve with changing times, changing customers, and changing circumstances will get left behind.

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