New funding options for the Choose Cape Fear campaign will be explored this year. The regional economic development marketing initiative, which developed around
the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament in May 2017, received public funds for campaign efforts.
Most of those funds, however, were committed through the first phase of the campaign, said Natalie English, president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.
With funds running out, English said sometime in the near future a conversation is expected to take place at a Cape Fear Future Foundation board meeting about the campaign and to “discuss how we will continue generating revenue that will go toward creating more assets.”
The chamber-led initiative received $75,000 in funding from the city of Wilmington, $25,000 of which was allocated in its 2018-19 fiscal year budget. It was the only public funding allocated for the campaign this year, English said.
Other regional governments also contributed funds. New Hanover County allocated $25,000 for Choose Cape Fear in FY 2016-17 and another $75,000 in FY 2017-18, county officials said.
The town of Leland invested $10,000 in FY 2016-17 and another $10,000 in FY 2017-18, according to the town. The initiative was also funded by Cape Fear Future, Columbus County and the Columbus Jobs Foundation.
English said campaign assets developed in the initial phase of the campaign, such as the campaign website, are “still alive and still being pushed.”
Those resources were developed to draw from the momentum from the Wells Fargo tournament in May 2017.
New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet said the effort during the Wells Fargo tournament provided the county with a good opportunity to showcase the region.
“The Choose Cape Fear campaign allowed New Hanover County to participate in a regional approach with organizations and surrounding counties to meet NHC’s strategic objectives of increasing the diversity and number of high-wage jobs and supporting the private sector’s need for talent to fill those jobs,” Coudriet said.
In the year following the tournament, a group of 30 to 40 volunteers has participated in working on the campaign on an as-need basis, English said.
“The chamber continues to believe a regional economic development plan is an important component of our overall economic development strategy that is intended to complement the work of our economic development partners,” English said.
The chamber’s next move for the initiative is to produce viral components for the Choose Cape Fear campaign and to direct even more attention to the website. That component includes videos of area business leaders who have “literally chosen the Cape Fear region,” English said.
The viral components have been in development since mid-2018 but were stalled due to Hurricane Florence. English said the chamber will release the videos early this year.
The chamber seeks to utilize those videos on social media and as an economic development tool to use when talking to business prospects. If local business leaders are unable to come to the table for those discussions, English said, “we can at least share a video telling their story about why they are here.”
For Leland, the initiative has provided the town with “significantly more visibility in this market by being at the table,” said Gary Vidmar, the town’s economic development director, adding that the visibility includes drawing attention to the town’s website, which has come through a link on the campaign’s web page.
In December, town council heard some of these updates from Vidmar on Choose Cape Fear.
“I think it’s money well spent,” Mayor Pro Tem Pat Batleman said in the days following that meeting.
“We definitely feel it was a worthwhile effort on our part,” she said, “because the whole goal is the growth of the town and the growth of it in such a way that it’s going to bring jobs, it’s going to help our economy … and Choose Cape Fear, that is a very important tool for us to use to be recognized.”