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An Entreprenerial Mindset Is Helping a North Carolina Community College Revive Its Local Economy

Posted By Jeanne Yocum, Friday, February 28, 2014

Across the nation, a revolution is occurring in how community colleges view their role in serving their communities. Seeking to bolster local economies, many community colleges, including the 300-plus members of the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), are adopting a holistic approach to fostering and supporting entrepreneurship and business growth. Not only are these colleges educating entrepreneurs, their presidents are using an entrepreneurial mindset to implement creative solutions to existing problems. The use of technology has been part of their innovation solutions.


Entrepreneurial Presidents Facilitate an Entrepreneurial Culture

According to NACCE President and CEO Heather Van Sickle, these entrepreneurial colleges have cultures requiring an entrepreneurial mindset for all who work at the college. “They focus on the foundational elements: the right people, the right culture, to increase the talent base in their community and add value that only the community college can in the entrepreneurship ecosystem. This culture results in an environment fertile for starting and sustaining successful businesses in the greater community.”


An Entrepreneurial President in Action at CVCC

Catawba Valley Community College (CVCC) in Hickory, North Carolina, is a prime example of an institution that has enthusiastically embraced an entrepreneurial mindset. Garrett Hinshaw is president at CVCC and also the incoming chair of the North Carolina Community College Presidents Association.


“North Carolina’s economic system is continuing to evolve through the economic downturn that we just experienced,” says Hinshaw. “It’s important for us to look at all opportunities for new business starts-ups, especially those that are innovative and scalable and that will create jobs. We need new businesses that will have a long-term positive impact on the ecosystem and will make our state competitive in a global market.


“My role as a community college president is to make every effort to inspire entrepreneurship and make sure it’s a priority for all of our programs here at Catawba Valley Community College,” Hinshaw adds. “Part of that is bringing in innovative programs like HP LIFE e-Learning that can help students learn business and IT skills and turn their business ideas into realities. Good IT skills and knowledge are critical to effectively managing and growing a business. IT affects every part of a company from bringing products and services to market quickly to interacting with customers. HP LIFE e-Learning is just one example of the incredible role technology is playing in fueling learning, business and community development and economic growth.”


Entrepreneurship Can Revive an Economy; Community Colleges are the Hub for that Revival

The economy of Hickory and its surrounding region was dominated by manufacturing for many decades. That all changed during the economic downturn. “Now it’s critical for us to focus on entrepreneurship as a new way of inventing jobs and assuring that our citizens have access to quality, relevant jobs for the future of this region,” says Hinshaw. “One of the key things that we’ve continued to do is support our existing manufacturers through our Advanced Manufacturing Solution Center, looking at ways to affect that bottom line so those companies can create jobs that are going to make a difference in our region. 


“We are creating an environment where every new idea has a chance to succeed,” he adds. “Through HP LIFE e-Learning and the different programs we’re initiating at our college we want to ensure that all citizens have the ability to get beyond friends and family and into the marketplace where they can grow a business, create jobs and obtain follow-on funding.”


Entrepreneurial Presidents Take Calculated Risks

Hinshaw believes it’s very important for the leaders of all 58 of the community colleges across North Carolina to think about the calculated risks they must take to make their environments relevant. “For example, right here on our campus, we’re created a 28,000-square-foot simulated hospital, which is the largest east of the Mississippi,” he says. “This has changed healthcare training in our region. We have to take existing resources and assure that they are relevant for the 21st century. We’re taking a former restaurant and turning it into an innovative corporate development center that features small business support. As a leader in higher education we always have to think differently in terms of how we do things, how we reach our constituents, how we ensure our citizens have the right skills and access to the resources they need. We have to be willing to take those risks and then work hard to make sure that our commitment and our focus remains on those.


According to Hinshaw, the Hickory community was built by entrepreneurs who knew how to make things and were real craftsmen. “This area is going to continue that tradition, but we just have to change the way we think and change the way we do business,” he says, “and technology like HP LIFE e-Learning is helping us do that. We’re seeing those manufacturers who are sustained here changing the way that they reach out to the community and how they engage with each other and really changing how we do business here in the Catawba Valley region.”


Watch this video to learn more about how one community college president in North Carolina is using an entrepreneurial mindset to restore the local economy.


About Catawba Valley Community College

Located in Hickory, NC, Catawba Valley Community College is an innovative, comprehensive community college that fosters and promotes a multitude of learning experiences, enabling and empowering its students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders to identify and to serve higher purposes in their lives and in their communities. CVCC was founded in 1958 and welcomed its first class of 77 students in 1960. Today, the college serves over 5,000 students with career training in a wide variety of technical and industrial fields through its Business, Engineering Technology, Environmental and Life Sciences, Health and Human Resources, and Industrial Technology Divisions. Also, many students transfer to a four-year college after completing their first two years at CVCC. 



The National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) is an organization of educators, administrators, presidents and entrepreneurs, focused on inciting entrepreneurship in their community and on their campus. NACCE has two main goals: 1. Empower the college to approach the business of running a community college with an entrepreneurial mindset; and 2. Grow the community college’s role in supporting job creation and entrepreneurs in their local ecosystem.


Founded in 2002, NACCE is at the heart of the "entrepreneurship movement.” Through membership, an annual conference and exhibition, regional summits, a quarterly journal, monthly webinars, a dynamic list-serv, and training resources, NACCE serves as the hub for the dissemination and integration of knowledge and successful practices regarding entrepreneurial leadership, entrepreneurship education and student business incubation. These initiatives and resulting actions advance economic prosperity in the communities served by its member colleges. NACCE is a founding member of the White House-led Startup America Partnership. For more information, visit Follow us at @NACCE, like us on, and join our LinkedIn group.

Tags:  Catawba Valley Community College  entrepreneurial college  Garrett Hinshaw  HP LIFE  NACCE 

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