Monday, August 29, 2022 – When Josh Carpenter was a young boy, he dreamed of becoming a pilot. Instead, his career has taken him in a different path – one of landing jobs instead of planes.
The 40-year-old is the first Director of the Mountain West Partnership. Originally created in 2015, the Mountain West Partnership was designed to be a coalition for economic development directors in the region to discuss shared issues, problems, and solutions that are unique to western North Carolina. During the pandemic, the need for a full-time director to lead the effort to market the region as a whole was made apparent, and Carpenter was ready for the challenge. The position is funded through the Southwestern Commission and Dogwood Health Trust.
“My heart is in this region, and I want to see it grow and thrive,” says Carpenter, who lives in Robbinsville with his wife, Crystal, and three children Ella, Emma, and Olivia, and where his family legacy has been rooted for generations. “I want my daughters to grow up and choose to stay here, with plenty of professional opportunities.”
And Carpenter has a plan. In his two months as director, he’s already moving forward, developing a board of directors to build a strong foundation, and thinking about marketing materials to recruit or expand businesses. “To really move all seven of the counties in our region economically forward, we must work on two things,” he says. One is supporting the businesses that are already here, and that’s about 80% of the work. Two is new business recruitment.” Carpenter says both of these operations face similar obstacles. “What we severely lack are locations of available buildings – in this world of competition, communities must be ready to meet the business’s criteria, and the best way to participate is to be at your highest and best use for education, building location, infrastructure and availability of workforce.”
Russ Harris, executive director for the Southwestern Commission, says that Carpenter is the right person for this role. “Josh has a rare combination of more than a decade of experience of working in this industry and being native to the region,” Harris says. “He not only understands economic development but how important it is for that development to fit the culture of the region.”
The Kennesaw State graduate moved back to the mountains in 2008. After working in Graham and Cherokee counties, Carpenter joined the Economic Development Partnership for NC, representing 13 counties in western North Carolina, but was always drawn to the far west. “We have our own culture and opportunities out here,” he says, “I want to meet counties where they are and not force a certain way to do something. It’s a dream to be able to show employers what mountain living is about and partner with communities to develop places to do business.”
Carpenter’s long-term goals are simple. “At the end of the day, I hope we can show that we impacted these western counties for the long term, and that jobs were created in every county in Region A.”