The Research Triangle Regional Partnership has tapped Ryan Combs, a former aide to two U.S. senators and currently director of governmental affairs for the N.C. Department of Public Safety, to be the organization’s new executive director.
Combs was the unanimous choice of the partnership’s eight-person search committee, said John Kane of Kane Realty, the group’s chairman. Combs is scheduled to start his new job Feb. 20.
Combs succeeds Charles Hayes, who retired last June. In the interim Harvey Schmitt, the retired former president of the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, came aboard as a consultant to assess the organization’s strategy.
Consequently, the appointment of Combs coincides with a shift in direction for the organization. Kane said the partnership is now focused exclusively on marketing and branding the region, “making sure that word continues to get out about the attributes of the region so that people know that this is somewhere that needs to be on their radar.”
That shift means the partnership will no longer be performing economic-development-oriented research and presenting sites to businesses interested in moving or expanding here.
With the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina now working directly with local economic developers in each county, “we don’t need to be in that space any longer,” Kane said.
The change also means that the organization will need fewer staff. It will move forward with a staff of three, down from seven when Hayes led the partnership.
No job cuts will be necessary, however, because the staff members who would have been affected have already left, Kane said.
“They all got nice jobs,” he added.
Before joining the Department of Public Safety in 2013, Combs, a graduate of N.C. State University, worked as a field representative for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and was a special assistant and legislative correspondent for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole.
Kane praised Combs’ communication skills.
“He demands the presence in the room in a nice, soft, compelling way,” Kane said. “He’s a person who can communicate with whoever he is talking to at a level they can understand and appreciate.”