County Tries Again, Hires Local for Economic Development

And for the second time this year we have an announcement about the County's hire of a new economic development director. Knowing nothing else about him, here's my favorite part so far: "[Steve] Brantley, who has lived in Orange County for the last 25 years..."

Brantley Named Director of Economic Development for Orange County

HILLSBOROUGH, NC – Frank Clifton, Orange County Manager, announced the appointment of Mark Steven (Steve) Brantley as Economic Development Director for Orange County starting September 19, 2011.

As the Economic Development Director, Brantley will be responsible for creating and implementing strategies to enhance and promote the economic well-being of Orange County.  He will also coordinate with the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitor’s Bureau. 

Brantley has an established track record with over 20 years with the North Carolina Department of Commerce.  As a Senior International Economic Developer, Brantley was responsible for recruiting new business and industrial facilities, research and development laboratories, distribution centers and office headquarters.  Targeted industries included pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, ceramics, textiles, electronics and green technology.  He served as the lead contact for the State of North Carolina with Far East clients including Japan, Korea and China.  Brantley has collaborated with universities to help develop innovation centers and new start-ups. 

His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in Economics with a minor in Asian/Japanese Studies.  In the private sector, Brantley worked with Credit Suisse on Wall Street with specialized training in managerial and cost accounting, financial statement analysis, international economics and foreign currency trading.  He worked frequently with corporate clients in the central and eastern area of the U.S.  Brantley also worked with Branch Banking & Trust (BB&T) as a Commercial Lending Officer assisting companies with corporate loans. 

“Steve was our top choice among the several qualified applicants for Economic Director,” Clifton said.  “His wide range of experience from home-grown university start-ups to international clients will be an excellent fit to tackle our challenges.”

Brantley, who has lived in Orange County for the last 25 years, is excited about the future.  “I’m looking forward to new challenges and implementing creative solutions to nurture economic growth in Orange County,” Brantley said. 



I did a little Googling and I found this photo gallery of mostly motorcycles and Civil War re-enactors: wasn't sure if it was him, but this is almost certainly his Facebook profile, and it also references the photography page: Seems like an interesting guy. Apparently we have NO friends in common, so that does make me suspicious. ;-) There's almost nothing in his bio that even offers a guess as to what he thinks about local economic development. And honestly, the fact that he was hired by Frank Clifton should probably be a red flag unto itself. But I'm still glad to see that at least he's a resident of Orange County, which should hopefully help in minimizing the generic "Any Economy, USA" ideas that his two latest predecessors brought us. Still looking forward to learning more...

Greetings Ruby.  I hope that you and the other readers of will allow me to introduce myself, let me offer my sincere desire to get to know you and listen to your ideas, and ask that you have faith that I believe citizen input should be consulted.  While some here will likely interpret my background as based in "traditional" economic development, I trust you will not prejudge me or my doubt my personal desire to work to improve our community in whatever ways I can contribute.  I love Orange County, and it is where I chose to live, raise a family and call home.

I am a Durham native from a farming background.  Due to the misfortune of a broken home environment before I was a year old, I grew up on welfare and food stamps for a time, until my mother found work at Duke Hospital, where she became a secretary for 38 years.  And since my father's grandmother was a full blooded Cherokee, it meant I was technically of "legal" Native American heritage, if you count the percentage lineage. If you know anything about the blue collar side of Durham, and particularly the Braggtown community I came from, you might guess this kind of background could make it more difficult to succeed.  When people in this community write and talk about social injustice, I think about where I came from.

During most of my US Navy service in my younger years, I was fortunate to spend 5 years living outside the United States, and was able to see the world, and this country, from a more distant perspective.  That included living in rural Japan for 4 years, where I met my Japanese wife Noriko. She and I have been married for the past 31 years, and she is is an accomplished teacher and currently a very busy personal fitness trainer in town.  

Over the past two plus decades, while working with the State of NC in Raleigh, I have been a Carrboro resident and taxpayer, and my two children attended public school here at Carrboro Elementary, McDougle Middle School, and then graduated from Chapel Hill High.  Both my son and daughter then went on to enter UNC Chapel Hill, and both have since graduated.  They played local team sports here, acted in Chapel HIll High musicals and dramas, my son sang with the UNC Clef Hangers a capella group, and they eventually grew into fine young adults who are now pursuing their career dreams in the area.  Their mixed race heritage rarely caused them to encounter problems here, though I know they privately wrestled with having a dual identity. 

I also served for 2 1/2 years on the Town of Carrboro's Board of Adjustment.  So we feel we are a UNC and Carrboro family.

Personally, I enjoy visiting the Carrboro Farmers Market most Saturdays, pursuing my artistic hobby of photography and developing my photo web site (, hiking the Eno or Hanging Rock, and riding my British made Triumph motorcycles through the countryside.

In conclusion, I ask that readers here be open minded about my honest intention to meet, talk and strategize with you, as I begin to transition into this new role as the new Orange County economic developer.  Successful economic development policy can have many interpretations, because it can and should cover a broad array of strategies that seek to improve the overall quality of life for citizens in Orange County.   Economic development efforts and goals that may be appropriate for Mebane or the Caldwell community may not always be the same approach that one would pursue for Carrboro.  But there should be an environment, on both sides, that allows such discussion (and difference of opinion) to be considered calmly.  Remembering that in the end, we all still live here together and should strive to coexist in harmony.  My many travels to Asia showed me that seeking harmony is a key doctrine of the Buddhist belief that is practiced in that part of the world, which I think you understand.

Because of my own background, I have one foot in the culture of Caldwell and the Orange County Speedway, and the other foot in the culture of Weaver Street and Open Eye.  They easily coexist for me.  So perhaps I have some understanding of the diverse community here called Orange County.

The Orange County tool bag of economic development initiatives ought to be diverse, as it is, such that each unique community here, however different, can work together and make our home better for the next generation. I am impressed with Orange County's direction to  seek new ways to attract more and better paying jobs (with health benefits) for our citizens.  To attract new sustainable technologies in promising growth clusters. To find a way to shift the property tax burden off the home owner and more toward new businesses that can move here.  To encourage a positive net flow of sales tax revenues into the county, and thereby support local merchants.

It should be possible for people with varying views or backgrounds to talk and find common interests and solutions to such endeavors, in a courteous manner, and you have my pledge that I will also be honest and open in any discussion related to economic development in Orange County.


Steve Brantley


Thank you so much for posting and for sharing more about your vision for ED in Orange County, Steve. A lot of what you have to say (and the fact that you came here and said it) is exactly why I think it was a smart idea for the County to hire a local for this position. There is a lot about the culture here that is hard to explain but just has to be lived and felt. Clearly you are soaking in it, Steve. (I mean that in a very good way.)One tip: We recommend that you register and sign in before posting so that people can be sure it's really you. We'd love to see you continue to particpate here as you move forward in your work!

Welcome Mr. Brantley to Orange County Government. Please stop by my stand at the Carrboro Farmers Market one of these Saturdays so we can meet face to face. I am in the outfield section. I am aware of the Braggtown area of Durham and I graduated from Northern High (1974). Good luck in your new job.Patrick MulkeyStanford Farm

Patrick, hello to you (and to the other readers and contributors to OrangePolitics.  I have actually not revisted this site since I posted my introductory letter over a month ago, in case I might be subject to scrutiny that I'm not used to fielding.


You and I may have already met at the Carrboro Farmers Market, but I will be sure to look for you again there.  I was a 1975 graduate of Northern High School in Durham, a year after you, so I'm sure we crossed paths there a very long time ago. Best regards.


Steve recently served on the Board of Adjustment in Carrboro. Minutes are available on-line at the Carrboro web site.

For those interested in Orange County's prospects for economic development you may be interested in two recent agenda items of the County Commissioners, including tonight: "Development Potential and One-Quarter (¼) Cent Sales Tax Educational Material Report. The Board will receive a report from Planning and Economic Development staff and consultant Obrien/Atkins Associates on economic development potential and One-Quarter (1/4) Cent Sales Tax educational material."

The 6-page report includes 4 pages of visuals produced by OBrienAtkins and includes housing mixed in with some of the the commercial development, which I think could result in more affordable housing in our county.From the August 23 agenda is this item"UNC Department of City & Regional Planning Proposal on UNC-CH Spin-Off Companies. The Board will consider approving a proposal from the UNC Department of city & Regional Planning to complete a study documenting the real estate needs of entrepreneurial companies originating from the University and provide concrete recommendations on how to better retain spin-off companies in Orange County and authorize the Manager to sign."

Thanks for commenting here Mr. Brantley. It's a great first step to building new relationships here in Orange County as our Economic Development Director. Looking forward to your work.

Welcome to Steve.  I've been fortunate to know Steve and have more than a few conversations with him about Orange County and Economic Development.   I think the county made an excellent choice and Steve, Congratulations!!! 

The best local article on this hire that I read is found in the Sept 14 edition of the News of Orange:

 Today is Mr. Brantley's first official day on the job. Welcome Steve. 


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