While taking part in a recent panel discussion, six Duke students learned about the history of Durham’s economy, from the tobacco production days of the 1900s to the current challenges caused by the city’s booming growth.
The Durham-focused economic development discussion, held June 6 in Smith Warehouse, was part of the 2018 DukeEngage-Durham program, an immersive summer service experience offered to Duke undergraduate students that focuses on economic and community development. These six Duke students spend 10 weeks during the summer serving and learning with local nonprofits in Durham, N.C. and Durham, England.
The DukeEngage-Durham program annually invites Durham leaders to participate in the economic development panel discussion with students. This year’s panel consisted of Casey Steinbacher, former president and CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce; Durham Mayor Steve Schewel; Phail Wynn Jr., Duke’s vice president for Durham and Regional Affairs; and Lois Deloatch, the director of philanthropy at the Center for Responsible Lending.
The panelists discussed Durham’s economic revitalization and shared their perspectives on the city’s growth and subsequent challenges.
Schewel, who became mayor of Durham in 2017, reflected on how the presence of Duke University Health System and local institutions such as Duke, North Carolina Central University and Durham Technical Community College have positively impacted Durham’s economic growth. The initial creation of Research Triangle Park in 1959 is also an example of how a collaborative project that brings together education and medicine has contributed to Durham’s economic revitalization.
“We have had tremendous success, and because we have had tremendous success, we now have the problem of success,” Schewel said. “The problem with success is gentrification.”
Schewel added that a high volume of people relocate to Durham to be a part of its success and growth, but many Durham natives are forced to relocate due to the increase in cost of living. Affordable housing continues to be a pressing issue discussed among community members and leaders.
During the panel discussion, Steinbacher said Durham’s growth has attracted a large number of experienced, creative youth to move to the city before they even have a job lined up, and Durham companies are constantly recruiting young talent.
“A lot of people today are choosing where they live first and then where they work second,” Steinbacher said. “You have to have creative energy as a community to keep the young, creative talent in the area.”
At the end of the conversation, the panelists challenged Duke students to continue to learn about Durham and its residents, as well as share their talents with the community through volunteerism or their future careers.
“Duke’s most valuable resource is the dedication, the intellect, the enthusiasm of undergraduate students like you, who are working with nonprofits, taking their skills and abilities from outside the campus bubble into Durham, and showing all citizens of Durham that Duke really cares and is an engaged partner in Durham,” Wynn said.
Story and photos by Alyzia McAlmon