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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

State Treasurer brings entrepreneurship message to UNCP

One important deal was negotiated during the visit of North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell to UNC Pembroke.

From left: Dr. Carmen Calabrese, director of the Thomas Center for Entrepreneurship, Shannon Gallagher and Malinda Todd of NC REAL, Treasurer Janet Cowell, Chancellor Kyle Carter and Dr. Mike Menefee, the Thomas Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship

From left: Dr. Carmen Calabrese, director of the Thomas Center for Entrepreneurship, Shannon Gallagher and Malinda Todd of NC REAL, Treasurer Janet Cowell, Chancellor Kyle Carter and Dr. Mike Menefee, the Thomas Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship

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The treasurer’s College Entrepre- neurship Tour rolled into Pembroke on October 19 as the guests of UNCP’s Thomas Family Entrepre- neurship Center. NC REAL, a rural entrepre- neurship education program, was on board.

After meeting with approximately 30 UNCP faculty and their students who are enrolled in entrepreneurship programs, Cowell met with Damon Anderson, a junior, and offered him a summer internship.

Cowell, who was elected state treasurer in 2008, explained her role as a financial manager and an entrepreneur in the state government. She brought news of her newest initiative – the $230 million NC Innovation Fund – created to stimulate business and entrepreneurship in North Carolina.

“Investing in North Carolina is good business,” Cowell said. “Entrepreneurship and small business growth are important to the well-being of our state.

“We are a state with great universities, like UNC Pembroke, smart students, good companies and good business environment,” she said.

The NC Innovation Fund will be managed by Credit Suisse as a private equity fund. It is an investment of the $66 billion state employee retirement fund.

“$100 million is already invested, and we will invest an additional $230 million in the fund,” Cowell said. “Our goal is to remove politics from the fund and put it in the hands of professional money managers with proven track records.

“We will take a stake in small businesses,” she continued.

The investments will be in the range of $3-20 million. Cowell said the first investment is in a Charlotte, N.C., company that makes fire security gear for “smart” homes.

N.C. Treasurer Janet Cowell talks with UNCP student Damon Anderson

N.C. Treasurer Janet Cowell talks with UNCP student Damon Anderson

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The Innovation Fund was born in part to help solve the state’s economic problems and to provide much needed capital to business.

“There is a lot of pressure on state budget and jobs right now,” she said. “The long term answer is to build an entrepreneurship structure in North Carolina and work with the universities.”

Shannon Gallagher and Malinda Todd with NC REAL gave the students a short course in entrepreneurship. The students invented products and gave them names and marketing slogans.

With names like Bungee Flex - “Blast Past the Limit” – and Mini-Taser – “Tase ‘em and Leave ‘em Stunned for Days” – the students showed remarkable creativity and innovation, Todd said.

 Dr. Mike Menefee, UNCP’s Thomas Family Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship, said the treasurer’s visit was a great experience for the students.

“We were lucky and got on her College Entrepreneurship Tour,” Dr. Menefee said. “We’ve worked hard on our entrepreneurship programs, and it’s good to get the attention of the state’s treasurer.”

The College Entrepreneurship Tour toured campus and met with Chancellor Kyle R. Carter, Interim Provost William Gash, Acting Business Dean Cammie Hunt Oxendine and Dr. Carmen Calabrese, director of the Thomas Center.

For more information about entrepreneurship programs at UNCP or the Thomas Family Center for Entrepreneurship, please call 910.775.4208 or email thomasfamilycenter@uncp.edu.

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