Before Mike Paris became the bureau manager for the city of Norfolk’s Economic Development Department, he was earning his associate in general studies from Tidewater Community College.

Originally from Massachusetts, Paris was unsure what his future career would entail but was advised the degree would transfer well to any four-year program he pursued in the future.

“TCC turned out to be more than I ever bargained for,” says Paris of his time on campus. “The diverse education experience and lifelong friendships gained on campus were never recreated for me.”

Paris says that being surrounded by the diversity of thought, age, and economic backgrounds he was exposed to during his years at TCC helped him start his career as a young professional with a broader perspective on life than many of his peers.

“The workplace looks a lot like a community college, with different backgrounds and beliefs. TCC simulates the work environment of the real world better,” says Paris.

After graduating from TCC, Paris earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Old Dominion University (2005), followed by a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Regent University and his Economic Development Institute education from the University of Oklahoma.

Nowadays, Paris’ work strategy examines why businesses choose to expand and move to certain states. Access to talent and workforce are at the top of the list. Recognizing TCC’s commitment to building talent early on positioned Paris to prioritize partnerships with the community college and find success in Norfolk’s economic development space many times over, including earning a spot on the list of Inside Business’s Top 40 Under 40 2022.

In 2022, Paris also co-led a partnership in support of both a business expansion and nearby communities with elevated rates of poverty. After leading a traditional economic development expansion project, he ensured that access to the newly created jobs was successfully transferred to nearby communities by helping to create a mobile welding lab and partnership training program, WeldNOW, to close a relevant skills gap in these communities.

WeldNOW works in concert with TCC, which obtained the facility, developed, and leads the training, working in close coordination with Norfolk Works, the workforce arm of Norfolk’s Economic Development Department, to select business sites and perform community outreach and recruitment. This effort was successful in helping residents obtain newly created, family-sustaining positions, earning Paris and his team a Gold Award for Excellence in Economic Development for Talent Development & Retention issued by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

Paris also earned the 2023 Workforce Champion Innovation Award from the Hampton Roads Workforce Council for his efforts to bridge economic development with workforce development and for developing community access to employment opportunities generated by new and expanded businesses in collaboration with workforce partners.

Most recently, Paris and his team at the city of Norfolk received an award for Outstanding Achievement through a Collaboration by the chancellor of the Virginia Community College System in December 2023.  The accolade honors the dynamic partnership between TCC’s Workforce Solutions and the Norfolk Economic Development Office.

“TCC continues to serve Norfolk in innovative ways. Community college is a critical piece of our city’s success,” says Paris. “We rely heavily on TCC to be an engine for producing the talent needed to grow our economy.”