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Good News—Economic Development Help From North Carolina To Wilmington Region 8/6/19

Let’s begin with the big picture—Our Moonshot Recommendation #4 said it was “Time for a New Economic Development Strategy” (RWF Blogs, Mar.12)

That is Still True, and for those of you who share our concern about our Economic

Development (ED), please re-read that blog. Everyone should read the good news below about how the state is evolving its approach to assisting with ED:

Last year, the state worked with 88 businesses in the Southeast Region*. This year, their

Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) has recruited James Wolfe, a former county ED Executive Director with a goal of visiting and working with 150 businesses. A lot of those will be in our market area.

Does this Attract New Industries?

James Wolfe thinks so, and the State obviously agrees with him: “focus on those existing

industries and helping them grow…demonstrates how well you support (existing) industries and is a big selling point to recruiting (new) industries”.

State Emphasizing Growth of Existing Businesses

Our contention has been that our region has overemphasized recruiting new businesses one at a time in an increasingly competitive quest, over building our existing business base. Particularly, building on our “Economic Clusters” such as commercial research organizations (PPD and 30 others), healthcare, fintech, and marine sciences, as good examples. This initiative better addresses growth, or starts the ball rolling, in our view. What do we mean by that? Read on.

Let’s Achieve a Multiplier Effect—Work with the State, Mirror their Strategy and Bring Clusters Together at UNCW, TekMountain and Regional Conferences

The UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), TekMountain and their Consortia have been effective in bringing together interest groups in industries and technologies. Working with the state, we could reach twice, more likely five times as many firms by coordinating state visits here, bringing Economic Clusters together to meet, plan and implement growth strategies. We learn what the critical paths are to their success, and target real solutions.

How about Adding a Staff Member to Coordinate with the State in Each of our Three Core Counties, plus Wilmington and Leland?

What could be a better investment in the quality as well as quantity of our industry and job growth than that? More and better jobs, more tax revenue. Win-win.

Wilmington Region Counties, Cities Allocate More Resources to Existing Businesses Relative to Recruiting One at a Time

The old strategy of putting all our ED funds into hunting for giants to move here is too

expensive, time consuming and a resource diversion. Enough said. Let’s invest more in our successes!

Bill Graham

*Extracted from reporting by Christina O’Neal in the Greater Wilmington Business Journal August 2. The state organizes its Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC) into regions larger than we usually think of as the Wilmington Region. Their Southeast Region is 12 counties. (The Wilmington Region is often thought of as New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender Counties, though our market area for many services is larger and growing).

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