Leadership of major economic development group has a Tar Heel flavor

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ECS Southeast, LLP

Raul J. Peralta: North Carolina may not get every major corporate relocation, but it knows how to win elections to run a Southern economic development group with representatives from 17 states.

Raul Peralta, a senior vice president for business development with Chantilly, Va.-based Engineering Consulting Services Limited, or ECS, will be the 2019 president of the Southern Economic Development Council. The association’s members are mainly business recruiters working in a region stretching from Washington, D.C., to Texas.

In January, he will succeed the 2018 president, Sam Powers, who is the city of Asheville’s community and economic development director. Bob Leak, president of Winston-Salem Business Inc., served as president prior to Powers.

Peralta is a Cuban immigrant with an obvious love for his work and his adopted country. An N.C. State University graduate, he lives in Trinity in Randolph County. He talked with Business North Carolina with his comments edited for brevity and clarity.

Tell us about yourself.

I am part of a Cuban immigrant family that came to the U.S. in 1964. We moved to Henderson, North Carolina in 1972 because my parents liked the education opportunities available in the state. And all five of us kids went to different North Carolina colleges.

What are your memories of your family’s move?

We literally flew out in what was the last of the freedom flights. We went to Mexico first in order to make it to this great country in a legal fashion. Then we went to Miami, and later, my father got a job as a school teacher in Holly Springs, Miss. We then moved to Henderson, where my dad Jose Peralta, became a very loved and respected teacher.

Your job covers a big region. Why do you live in North Carolina?

Having been raised in the state, I want to make sure it continues to be a great place to live, work and play. Because my role is more of a regional one, I feel the same way about the other states where I also work. I’m responsible for the Carolinas, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama. But not Virginia.

If you want to live somewhere centrally located, the Triad is a great place. It’s an easy drive to Charlotte or Raleigh.

Are you working on any interesting projects?

Our firm is doing the environmental due diligence around the new ballpark in downtown High Point. It will have a big impact on that area. We’ve also been involved in the Chatham/Randolph megasite. We’ve studied the environmental concerns, and we can quantify how much is buildable due to streams, wetlands and other factors.

ECS does a lot of engineering support for companies that are sniffing around for new locations or making expansions. When potential users are looking at a site, we do everything we can to make sure those sites have a good chance of landing the business.

Who belongs to the SEDC?

The majority of members are economic developers. I’ve been a member for 10 or 15 years, and it will be the first time a non practitioner is chairman of the board.

Aren’t your members very competitive with each other?

What amazes me about this organization is that one day, people are competing for a project, and the next day, they are making plans together on how to improve the region. It is amazing to see the different states and regions come together to attract business and provide jobs.

Are you optimistic about North Carolina’s chances for a major manufacturer?

If you do the due diligence and get a site ready for Toyota, which then decides to go elsewhere, you still have a site that is close to being totally ready for the next one. North Carolina is competitive in any of the categories. While everyone claims to have a high quality of life, we have that. And from the governor on down, the incentives and politics have become very pro-business.

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