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Moonshot Recommendation #3: Why it Matters to You for the Wilmington Region to Become a “TechHub”

We have discussed the need for an engineering school and R&D partnerships as a source of prosperity for the region. (See RWF Blog Post Recommendations #1 and #2). Studies have shown that for every tech job we have, five additional jobs are created. So we all win, regardless of whether we are employed in a tech specialty ourselves. TechHubs have higher wages, lower unemployment and richer cultural resources as we compare our region to others around the country.

The Wilmington Region has only a handful of IT businesses, and the competition to lure our talent to IT TechHubs elsewhere is ferocious. Tracking state data compiled by Greene Associates reveals that in recent months, only 1% of job searches in NC are for placements in Wilmington, showing we are hiring way below our “fair share,” much less enough for the rapid growth we seek. We are losing a lot of great talent. Fortunately, that’s not the whole story.

In Financial Technology (“fintech”) Live Oak Bank and three affiliates have already recruited several hundred UNCW graduates, and they are building a leading set of software products for the banking industry. Buildings are springing up on their campus, and there is talk of planning to increase to 4,000 employees, mostly IT professionals. That would have huge impact.

Among other TechHub markers, we also benefit from “knowledge worker” clusters. The Greater Wilmington Business Journal recently reported that our Wilmington Commercial Research Organization (CRO) knowledge worker cluster, led by PPD, has now expanded to 30 CRO’s, supplemented by 70 other businesses providing them with support services, or about 100 businesses in total. PPD and its counterparts have brought many great jobs to our region. We appreciate having them.

There’s a lot more good news. In Health Sciences, UNCW has newly created extensive graduate level programs. NHRMC is the Region’s premier hospital system, and other regional health science initiatives hold promise of growth and collaboration. UNCW has added a graduate level Data Sciences Program, and Coastal Engineering (undergraduate), as education with many rewarding job opportunities. Marine Sciences and the Marbionic Center have grown, and the recent Fish 2.0 Conference held here, and coming again, also plays to our strengths. Diane Durance of UNCW’s CIE articulates the case for Wilmington as a future home for international firms with leadership in coastal resources.

Our next Blog will discuss how we can build on these initiatives. Don’t miss it.

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Renaissance Wilmington Foundation

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