The Regional Branding Initiative Leadership Team (BILT), led by University of North Carolina Wilmington facilitators, spent two hours Wednesday morning considering what companies look for when choosing a location and exploring what traits differentiate the Wilmington area to make it attractive as a business destination.
BILT’s goal, according to UNCW officials, is to choose the name used in future branding efforts to refer to the Wilmington area and identify key themes for those purposes. The group is made up of 20 individuals representing local governments, economic development organizations and a few key industries in the area.
The goal is to establish a brand that can be used in whole or in part by a variety of business and governmental organizations, said Jenni Harris, UNCW’s assistant to the chancellor for community partnerships, who facilitates the BILT.
“That is why the BILT’s make-up and representation is crucial to its success,” she said. “Once the group dives further into more detailed concepts of what our brand should be, pinpointing a few as potential, they will need to begin considering how they will use those concepts within their own organization’s strategies.”
Wednesday’s discussion – led by Tom Porter, chairman of the department of marketing at UNCW’s Cameron School of Business – yielded some decisions: first, to target with the brand message small- and mid-size companies that employ highly skilled or knowledge workers; and, second, to emphasize the Wilmington area’s quality of life as its distinctive attribute, while touting the area’s other business-friendly qualities and assets.
A presentation by Roger Johnson, assistant to the city manager for development, highlighted the fact that quality of life issues don’t appear on the short list of attributes manufacturers look for in selecting new sites. He said that non-manufacturing companies do consider quality of life at a potential target location, along with factors such as available sites, access to suppliers and markets, workforce availability, the regulatory environment, transportation, incentives, taxes and financial capital.
Team member Cedrick Dickerson said that Wilmington needs to be competitive in terms of the business environment and support it offers but can then enhance its pitch with quality-of-life amenities.
“There are cities that might be great places to do business, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to live there,” he said.
“We need to target small- and medium-size groups and use quality of life to get them in the door,” Johnson added.
Next on the team’s list is to determine effective emotional hooks to capture the attention of target companies. Porter said that the BILT would concentrate its attention on those hooks at its upcoming March 12 meeting.
Of the team’s 20 members, nine were present at Wednesday’s session, which was rescheduled from Feb. 12 as a result of inclement weather on the original date.
The BILT, formed last year, is facilitated by Harris and led by chairman Alfred White, a small business banker at Wells Fargo and board chairman of LINC Inc.
The group hopes to decide on a brand identity by April and to create a marketing plan by July, although team members said Wednesday they would wait to finalize the brand identity until completion of the economic development report from Garner Economics, which was commissioned by New Hanover County.