First in Future: UNCP Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship Executive Director Thomas Hall

Summary: In the center of Pembroke, a sleepy town of just 3,000 in southeastern North Carolina, the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship at UNC Pembroke has set up shop in a restored furniture store. Heading the center is an unlikely leader: Thomas Hall, a man who, until recently, worked in Boston to launch a number of consumer products. His new charge is to work with an enthusiastic group of citizens to figure out how to create a vibrant innovation ecosystem in Robeson County, just a few miles from the South Carolina border. Pembroke’s team is joining with similar communities as a part of InnovateNC, an initiative that grew out of IEI’s 2015 Emerging Issues Forum, Innovation Reconstructed. Their goal is to, in part, assess their assets and try to build on – not abandon – them. This week, we talk to Thomas Hall in the Thomas Center’s 20,000 sq. ft. incubator about “coop-itition,” the county’s first makerspace, and how entrepreneurial success can transform this small community.

Excerpt: “Frankly, an incubator that’s full is probably not the best example. You want incubators to be empty. It sounds kind of counterintuitive, but you want businesses to come through here, succeed and grow, and find bigger space.”

Book recommendation: Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

North Carolinians to Watch: Audrey McGirt and Martha B. Hunt of Lilies of Hope, a home care startup.

What does North Carolina’s Homegrown Superhero, The Versatillion, look like? What characteristics, skills and abilities must they possess to be the hero North Carolina needs? Submit your vision for this superhero of the future to our First in Future contest for your first chance at a 2018 Emerging Issues Forum ticket!

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