We all have an idea, a dream, or a goal that we’d like to accomplish. For many, however, these ideas, dreams, and goals remain visionless thoughts never to see the light of day. In 2018, Dr. James Johnson, Jr., UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School’s Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, was commissioned by the City of Durham to develop a comprehensive strategy for turning former Mayor Steve Schewel’s vision of a more equitable and inclusive economy in Durham into reality. Dr. Johnson eventually developed such a strategic plan.

In his strategic plan, Built2Last: A Roadmap for Inclusive and Equitable Development in Durham, Dr. Johnson outlined four core elements that would lead to greater shared prosperity in Durham, two being: a more inclusive entrepreneurial/business ecosystem; and an equitable community economic development innovations fund. These initiatives would support historically underutilized businesses and invest in workforce development partnerships that support the working poor. The study also recommended that these services would be housed in an independent nonprofit, which eventually became known as Built2Last.

Once the strategic plan was approved by Durham’s City Council, a team, led by Grace Dzidzienyo, Assistant Director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD), and comprised of Dr. Johnson, Deputy City Manager Keith Chadwell, Dr. Joyce Blackwell, Pheon Alston, Eric Miller, Andrew Miracle, and OEWD Director Andre Pettigrew, developed an implementation strategy. The nonprofit’s inaugural Board and the current Executive Director have closely followed the implementation plan in setting up Built2Last.