Wilmington is not only in competition for talent and companies with states across the country. The city’s competition lies within its own state.
That was one of many thoughts shared by local business and recruitment leaders shared during a panel discussion on job recruitment in Wilmington, part of several breakout sessions at the Cucalorus Connect conference Friday.
The panel included Rob Hawthorne, Tom Ryder, Bo Burch, Lauren Henderson, along with Tom Looney, president of the Cucalorus Connect board.
While Wilmington has experienced intense growth over the past five years, those on the panel suggested that challenges may remain in bringing talented people to the community, because there may not be enough opportunity.
"It's a gamble," said Hawthorne, president of Hawthorne Search, a recruiting company in Wilmington.
"You move to Austin, and things don't work out with that job you take, there are 20 other jobs you can take. Wilmington needs to do more of this to create more opportunities for people that want to come here,” he said.
As more businesses develop, however, and as more opportunities present themselves such as those in technology, it's becoming less of a risk for talent to move to Wilmington, he said.
Henderson, CFO of CastleBranch and president of tekMountain, said the company has tried a new approach in recruiting, a model that brings new talent to the city for a few months to try out the area.
"That way they didn't have to take that risk immediately. But of all three individuals that accepted positions that way, have now immediately decided to relocate even before that time period was up," Henderson said.
Though company recruitment is also a challenge for the region, as more businesses develop and as more opportunities present themselves, such as those in technology, it's becoming less of a risk for talent to move to Wilmington, panelists said.
Hawthorne said Wilmington's economy in terms of millennials could benefit the region.
"There's a lot of pros. Millennials aren't driven by money. You ask them what their drivers are ... they want [upward] mobility; They want flexibility, mentorship and lifestyle. Lifestyle is usually their No. 1 thing that they are looking for."
There has been also a draw for more software developers, programmers, and analysis, he said.
Ryder, president of Target Solutions, said the local landscape change into a more digital economy has helped efforts.
"Up until about five years ago, there was almost nothing in Wilmington. I made dozens of placements here, primarily with nCino in the last five years. I think it's just the tip of the iceberg with CastleBranch, with Live Oak, with some of the other companies that are coming here right now. We have a nice future ahead of us," Ryder said.
"My hypothesis is there is going to be 10 to 20 to 50 companies that spawn from ... these companies that are going to take this area to the next level," he said.
With the lower cost of living than some of the major cities, such as New York or Boston, and with strong quality-of-life factors, the panelists agreed that Wilmington can be competitive.
If the community does its job in economic development on the trade sector side, then Wilmington might see some job density, and even pressure some wages to go up, he added.
There is still work to do, Looney said. “It’s complicated stuff but we are on our way,” he said.