Wilmington council considers small biz help along with ballpark


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Spending money to make money. The City of Wilmington is looking for ways to spur economic development.

Some council members believe a baseball stadium may do that. At the same time, the city also wants to help small business owners. Is there money for both?

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Tuesday night, City Council will vote on whether to enter negotiations to discuss the ins and outs of building a baseball stadium in Wilmington.

On our website, many viewers have spoken out against the idea. When told about the negative feedback and asked why fight for something many may not want, Mayor Bill Saffo says he’s not the one pushing for a stadium.

“One of the things that I want to be clear to the citizens is that this was brought to our attention,” Saffo said. “This was brought to us as an opportunity. We’re going to take a look at a lot of different ways to finance this. This is one of the things we’ve been struggling with, but I think we owe it to the community to at least look at the opportunity from an economic development standpoint.”

How it will be financed is a sticking point.

Freshman Councilman Neil Anderson ran a campaign against raising property taxes, which is one of the possible options to pay for the stadium.

“I still can’t get my arms around how we’re gonna fund it, and I’m not sure I’m gonna be able to support that in the end,” Anderson said.

Baseball is not the only economic engine on the table. At Monday’s agenda briefing, City Manager Sterling Cheatam discussed a small business incentive proposal showing Wilmington does not do as much as other cities to help small business. The proposal includes a possible partnership with UNCW’s Entrepreneurship Center to help business owners succeed.

“You just throw them out there and hope they can swim with the sharks, but what I think we’re talking about here is doing more comprehensive things to help small business owners, entrepreneurs at different parts along the way when they have different needs,” Entrepreneurship Center Director Jonathan Rowe said.

Another idea is to fund a small business pilot success grant. But is there enough money to create a new program and build a ballpark?

“These are the things we have to weigh and determine, plus, the other fact of the matter is all the other things on our plate we have to take care of, infrastructure improvement, police and fire, all the other things it takes to run a city and to run a county,” Saffo said.

The small business proposal could also include a business incubator.

The city hopes to have a small business incentive adopted by the end of the year.