5 questions for Mark Owens
Mark Owens has more than 10 years of experience in economic development through chamber work, starting as an intern in Laurens County, S.C., before joining the Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce as director of business development in 2008. He became president and CEO in 2014, launching an award-winning initiative, GreerMade, to bring awareness to the manufacturing industry and locally made products. Owens was named president and CEO of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce in 2017. He is a graduate of Presbyterian College and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organization Management. Owens is a native of Charleston, S.C.
What do you like best about your job?
The opportunity to represent the businesses of our community and play a part in writing the next chapter of our community’s history is truly an honor. Working together with businesses of all sizes, institutions of higher learning, hospitals, and everything in between to improve the economy and create jobs is something that I view as mission work. I feel that I get to work on something much bigger than myself or our organization, and that feeling of building a community is what pushes me every day.
What inspires you?
My wife and my two-year-old son are my biggest inspirations. Their support and willingness to adapt to an ever-changing schedule encourages me to try to make a difference.
At work, I am inspired by the collaborative efforts of our business community to foster a strong economy that creates job opportunities. More than 700 new jobs were added to Forsyth County last year through Chamber-assisted economic development, and that means much more to me than just tracking the numbers. We are helping individuals provide for themselves and their families.
What should we be paying attention to?
We need to be focused on the talent part of the economic equation. Talented people are always the biggest asset to a company and a region. While we are rich with higher education in Forsyth County, we must work to recruit and retain talented individuals. I define talent to be a machinist, chef, doctor, lawyer, welder or anyone with the skills to be an asset to a company or to start their own business. While we have ample talent in certain areas, talent in highly-skilled professions such as welding, construction and coding must continue to grow. There is great opportunity in those industries, and we need to encourage our young students to consider those careers.
Companies are looking for the best people, and we need to be doing three things: one, developing our young people, two, keeping our talented people here, and three,recruiting talented people to move here. Talent is driving the economic development decisions and can be our differentiator.
What was your biggest challenge this week?
Triad business leaders were charged to host site selectors at the Wyndham Championship, and myself and Brent Christensen, CEO of the Greensboro Chamber, volunteered to caddy for our guests! It wasn’t the physical part of caddying though that was challenging. While we did carry their bags for one afternoon, we partnered with other leaders from High Point and Chatham County to showcase the Carolina Core over the three days. The biggest challenge was trying to fit in all the great assets our region of the state has to offer, but it did show that when we work together, we can make a bigger impact.
Eastern or western barbecue?
Am I allowed to answer South Carolina barbecue? I can’t help that I was raised on the mustard-based sauce, and while I am enjoying trying the various N.C. styles, I do keep a bottle of my favorite S.C. sauce at home.