Wilmington Business Development and Brunswick County have reached a formal agreement that officials say will improve the coordination of economic development services across county and municipal lines, according to a news release Monday.
Leaders of both entities recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that outlines collaboration and joint initiatives, the release stated. The agreement does not involve any funding.
WBD has been leading economic development programs for New Hanover and Pender counties and the city of Wilmington. The new MOU serves as a collaborative framework for regional economic development services and programs to bring new companies, jobs and economic investment to Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties, according to the release.
"This agreement illustrates a commitment by both parties to build in earnest on the informal partnership we've long had to work together in instances where it makes sense to do so," said Dickson McLean, chairman of Wilmington Business Development, in the release.
Frank Williams, chairman of the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners, said in the release that the MOU reflects a long-standing relationship between the entities.
"We have always regarded WBD as one of our key local partners in pursuing economic development initiatives," he said.
In 2015, Brunswick County and WBD worked closely to organize a familiarization tour of the three counties by national site selection consultants and corporate real estate professionals, the release stated. The "fam tour," along with the call for increased collaboration, grew from recommendations by Atlanta-based Garner Economics, dubbed "The Garner Report," which analyzed the region's economic potential in 2014. The Southeastern Partnership, the regional marketing entity whose footprint includes Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties, also participated in the hosting the fam tour.
"I am pleased that the longstanding productive relationship between Wilmington Business Development and Brunswick County Economic Development is further strengthened by both boards approving this agreement," said Brunswick County Manager Ann Hardy in the release. "We are positioned to facilitate investment in our region, and the strength of this collaboration will enhance those opportunities for the entire region."
In the summer of 2015, the Brunswick County Board of Commissioners voted to make Brunswick County Economic Development a county office rather than continuing to provide some funding and support to the separate legal entities that previously did the job. Last year, officials appointed Mike Hargett
as director of a combined economic development and planning department for the county.
In Monday's release, Hargett said cross-county cooperation has been part of regional job growth strategies in recent decades.
"Over the years, there have always been opportunities to communicate, compare notes and support each other," Hargett said. "The MOU provides a road map for continuing to pursue opportunities that bring mutual benefits."
Those opportunities include coordination in strategic planning, marketing and promotion, lead generation, client development and project management, the release said.
"At the same time, the agreement doesn't interfere with either of us pursuing certain opportunities alone or with other partners when that route makes better sense," Hargett said.
The MOU does not call on either party to commit funds or staff resources to the partnership.
"We've partnered together in the past on projects, but this is the first time we've written up the expectations both sides share," said Scott Satterfield, CEO of WBD, in the release.