Wilmington Chamber Drives New Economic Development Effort Down The Fairway

By Vince Winkel, posted Sep 21, 2016
Could a PGA Tour golf tournament in Wilmington be the catalyst needed to bring three counties together in a collaborative economic development effort that the region seems to desperately need?
The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce thinks so, and its looking to make par.
On Wednesday, the chamber announced a regional economic development marketing initiative designed to convince visitors attending the Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament here next May that the region is a great place to start or relocate a business. To achieve this regional marketing goal, the chamber is in the process of bringing together all the region’s economic development organizations to participate in the marketing effort.
The announcement comes on the heels of a resolution passed by the Wilmington City Council on Tuesday night to support a regional cooperative marketing approach around the golf tournament.
“The City of Wilmington aspires to capitalize on this opportunity by working in partnership with the adjoining counties, municipalities, and businesses to find a cooperative, collaborative marketing program to promote the area to the extent practical, including reaching our global visitors at gates of the Wilmington International Airport,” the resolution states.
“This opportunity presents the City of Wilmington and more broadly the region with the chance to leave a permanent impression on thousands of visitors from around the globe,” the city’s resolution continued. “It makes this area attractive as a tourist destination, a robust economic engine, as well as an attractive location to live.”
Three weeks ago, the board of directors of the Wilmington Chamber’s flagship initiative, Cape Fear Future, approved $100,000 for the regional marketing initiative as seed money to help raise matching dollars from the public and private sector. Last week the chamber released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to member marketing firms to propose a plan to carry out the marketing initiative. The selection of a marketing firm is expected to be made in October.
“The Chamber is very appreciative of the resolution passed by Wilmington City Council last evening that essentially supports such a regional initiative,” said chamber chairman Mitch Lamm in a new release Wednesday. “During the Chamber’s InterCity Visit to Charleston, South Carolina last year, we learned what a positive effect a regional approach to economic development can have.
“Our goal is to have all of our area economic development organizations work together to get potential prospects to take a look at this region, and then, if they choose to do so, pitch their own jurisdiction as the best place to locate the business,” Lamm added.
Other chambers are in tune with the push for increased collaboration.
“The Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce is fully prepared to put forth a collaborated effort to work together on regional economic development,” said Shannon Viera, president of the Brunswick County Chamber of Commerce.
Wilmington City Council member Paul Lawler is also a proponent of such an effort.
“The Wells Fargo tournament means we’re going to have more attention focused on Wilmington than ever in its history, and we need to figure out a way to leverage that attention to improve our economy,” Lawler told the Greater Wilmington Business Journal this week.
“We need to address this in a collaborative manner, which means everybody has to give a little bit as we move forward,” he explained.
The Wilmington chamber will seek support from all chambers of commerce in the tri-county area to secure their participation in the regional marketing effort, which is planned to kick-off during the Wells Fargo Championship. Wilmington chamber spokesman Scott Czechlewski said that initial meetings with Wilmington Business Development have indicated their strong support for the concept as well.
Golf may be just what the doctor ordered.
“The amount of media coverage will be unparalleled,” Kendall Alley, Wells Fargo’s regional president, said earlier this year during a Power Breakfast about the PGA Tour event, organized by the Business Journal.
“Show business leaders what you have here. Use the golf tournament as a catalyst.”
The Eagle Point Golf Club will host the 2017 Wells Fargo Championship May 1-7.
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