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Wilmington leaders talk strategy to foster economic growth

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Tuesday night Wilmington leaders reviewed last year's economic development and put a plan in place for further growth in 2013 at WHQR's public forum.

The Cape Fear Economic Development Council forum focused on what most people are trying to stick to: New Year's resolutions. This focus though was on a broader level, the demand for people to work together to make Wilmington's economy grow in 2013.

"We have to work together to figure out which direction we want to go," says Connie Majure-Rhett, chamber president and CEO. "How to attract companies here, how to attract people here, how to keep people here and how to develop jobs so people don't have to leave."

Despite low numbers in 2012, the panel is hopeful that the new year will bring a new outlook for the Port City. New ways to attract businesses to the area is a main goal of the plan.

"The ways we're going to have to attack that are to lower the cost on business, to make it faster to get your permits, and to make sure we've got a skilled work force in place that can do the type of work that manufactures and other businesses need," says Representative Rick Catlin.

Catlin says times are changing which means the community may have to re-think it's plan of attack in order to be successful moving forward. He says state leaders are also working to help make the progress easier.

"We're having to catch up with our new economic realities and I think we have a legislator in place right now that's going to work real hard to do that," says Catlin.

The panel, which including representatives from many different organizations and affiliations, says bringing new companies and businesses to the area will also help with the issue of fostering job growth in the region.

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They should look into

They should look into starting the "Beagle Farm" business...and start by turning the Convention "Off" Center into one. Then they'd get a hotel for sure.
Their strategy type methods...or lack of...have always been a hoot and a holler...so why would Council be able to do anything now?... we should ask. Most citizens have been shown their tactics unfold in the recent years with:
1. Successful Pro Baseball Field...
2. Successful Convention Center Hotel...
3. A fountain on Market St. that keeps getting hit by cars...
4. Sewer system fully operational...
5. Buying Inland Greens for big plans...
6. Road repairs at a pleasing rate...
(I gotta stop...I'm laughing to hard)
Quotes>(i.e.):
1."We're having to catch up with our new economic realities and I think we have a legislator in place right now that's going to work real hard to do that," says Catlin.
2. "We have to work together to figure out which direction we want to go," says Connie Majure-Rhett, chamber president and CEO. "How to attract companies here, how to attract people here, how to keep people here and how to develop jobs so people don't have to leave."(Unquote)
That leaves the real estate business out...what else?
How about starting a clothing store where I can find a pair of pants with a 29" length?
If there continues to be no solutions to these issues...the Cape Fear River will move elsewhere sooner or later too!
You go Girls!!!

Part of the problem is with some of Wilmington's "leaders".

Perhaps part of the problem actually starts with some of the people Wilmingtonians are defining as leaders and who they’re listening to for advice on business strategy.

The City Council? ... Can anyone say Convention Center, Convention Center Hotel or Baseball Stadium? Gee, those are all great "leadership" examples.

How about Connie Majure-Rhett? ... When was the last time she was actually on the right side of an issue or was in favor of anything other than padding the pockets of a small cabal of "downtown" insiders?

Keep listening to losers and you’ll keep losing. It's time for a little "shake and bake" where after the next local election the voters can proudly say "and I helped!"

Two main issues as I see it...

The continued actions of the City Council demonstrates a lack of self-awareness and an utter disconnect from sound business practices. (convention center/hotel debacle, minor League ballpark/debacle, overburdensome permitting process, anti-business climate).

Perception of self-interest and wrong doing on the part of local politicians. Rather real or imagined, it always appears individual council members have a beneficial stake in whatever racket they seem to cook up. Why would Bill Saffo, or any of them do that job for the pay? They don't.

Because the individuals that serve on the County Commission and City Council have had personal success in their own lives, they tend to believe that "they know best" and lord over their desires.

Just because your Daddy had success, handed it down to you, and you have parlayed that into further success, doesn't necessariy mean your are an economist, a strategic planner, etc.

There is a strange inferiority complex in this town when it comes to politicians...Wilmington is a lot of great things, but it is not or never will be a Charleston, Savannah, or even, I dare say a Myrtle Beach. They need to quit trying to compete on a level to compensate for the things Wilmington never will have or be.

A tough subject for a city

To tackle as the only tangibles they can offer would be lowered property taxes.
Wilmington, on it's own is an attractive venue during good economic times. We have a Community College and a University meaning our work force can be trained on an ongoing basis. Our amenities are nicer than most cities.
If the state can somehow reduce the regulatory burden we may be able to get past the tourism related businesses that dominate our landscape and attract more manufacturing jobs as Caitlin alludes to. Manufacturing jobs pay more than tourism related jobs for the most part, so they are the more desirable jobs to get.
But we must face some facts - company's like Continental tire, and Caterpillar who want to locate new factories are few and far between and they, for the most part, can drive many cities and states to grant breaks that far exceed the benefits of locating in the state they'e looking at.
We must face the fact that even after giving these huge breaks employers have no qualms about leaving - just take a look at Pontiac and Detroit and many rust belt cities. They are littered with broken promises and empty factories.
But a city like Wilmington has attractions that far exceed the monetary ones - so caution should be exercised by the city officials.

Vog

Nice idea, but no substance.

Manufacturing does pay better. However, the biggest problem with any serious manufacturing industries here is the lack of transportation routes. We are at the end of the road. There is no "spider network" of interstates, rail or aviation for that matter. It is imperative to have the ability to get raw materials, goods and product efficiently distributed. This is and always will be the restrictor for any major manufacturing here.
As was evident with the proposed mega-port in Southport, the roadways and railways would have to be seriously adjusted to acommodate the port distribution. As we all well know, all of those plans came with great scruitiny and disdain from the local NIMBY's.
Simply put, Wilmington is a strong tourist area. That's the way the people want to keep it.

Guest

I agree completely and have identified the end of the road complex before myself.
There are alternate businesses.
What about media companies? Get Ted Turner to relocate CNN here.
Heck he could build a stadium and move the Braves too!!!

And while I agree that transportation or lack thereof is a problem, not all company's require the services of over the road trucking they just need UPS/USPS/FedEx shipping, which we do have.

Why do Letterman/Leno/Kimmel originate from LA/NY?
Why not here?
I hope the wood pellet plants make a good go of it at our ports - thats a great success story if they do.

Vog

As an Executive Recruiter

As an Executive Recruiter who lives in Wilmington I applaud the desire and acknowledge the need for Family Wage and more Knowledge Based jobs to come into Wilmington and the surrounding area. We do not place candidates in Wilmington so we do not have an economic axe to grind on the subject. We do however live here and see the issues that are prevalent in the City and County, including the economic situation.

What is most troubling to me is why companies have not come here?

What is missing? In spite of many organizations being focused on job creation, including CFEDC, The Chamber of Commerce, Wilmington Business, Wilmington Downtown...It is Not happening.

What is NOT happening that should be happening? It is clear the business climate must be right. And with the new legislature, it may be corrected. But what is missing?

The Azalea Festival is being planned and is always a great event. A great way to show off the City and County. Is there any thought to reaching out to potential companies and hosting them at this event?
Maybe even sponsor a Golf Event as a part of the Festival.

Maybe these organizations need a brain storming session in which there are NO barriers on ideas.

We all know we need more local Family Wage jobs. What we do not seem to get our heads around, is How To Bring Them To The Area?

It takes more than tax incentives and a Golf tournament

I'm a native of Wilmington but spent most of my career working in other areas of the country.
For manufacturing we are on a dead end road with poor rail infrastructure and we are surrounded by environmentally sensitive areas that greatly increase the cost and liability. Forget major manufacturing.

As for so-called knowledge based business we have some of the essentials.We have a large creative community,a very good university and we have quality recreation and entertainment opportunities. What we don't have is good public infrastructure, Our public schools are deplorable. Our local governments are a nightmare to interact with. We have a Chamber Of Commerce that is absolutely useless for anything other than promoting political agendas.

As for things improving with a GOP government, This past year they passed a law to exclude a large number of "Knowledge" people from marriage or the legal protection of domestic partnerships. Next will be relaxation of environmental rules. That might attract a cement plant and a couple hundred $20 an hour jobs but it won't attract a company of 300-500 geeks who make $100k a year.

Hey Jim

Here's something off the hook.

Why not sponsor an Azalea Festival golf event in Silicon Valley (as an example). Talk up Wilmington there instead of getting them to come here?
Of course we'd sound like those time share callers hawking Myrtle Beach time shares so we'd have to be careful.
But when you think golf - think about the Buick Open. Its far away from any Buick factories isn't it?
Why can't a city like Wilmington, become a corporate co-sponsor of an event like the Buick Open?

Vog

Jim

As always its great to see a reasonable response like yours.
I would say to you however that you are using a touristy type event (Azalea festival) to try to attract manufacturing jobs to a city. Most tourists however are either vacationing or retired.
Do we not want to attract businesses through like minded events? Why is Majure Rhett here saying we need to do something when in fact there may be a business expo or a widget convention in Las Vegas.
It would seem to me that the best way to attract outside company's to come HERE would be to go where those outside company's are - no? Any sort of plan to attract businesses here has to be done with the thought that we would have to go to them to present the city and county - not rely on a flower festival to HOPEFULLY attract them here.
If I'm CEO of Widget Corp and I go to Disney World with my grand kids I'm NOT meeting with downtown groups or the Chamber. Why do we rely on them possibly coming to us?

Vog