County announces new economic development initiative
August 8, 2013By Jenny Callison
A well known strategic planning firm will be helping New Hanover County and its municipalities determine how to do a more effective job of economic development.
At a press conference held Wednesday at the Wilmington International Airport, New Hanover County Commissioners Chairman Woody White announced that the county has retained Atlanta-based Garner Economics LLC to help develop an economic development strategy.
New Hanover County will pay Garner Economics $92,500 for its work, said Carey Disney Ricks on Thursday. She said the funds comes from the county’s current-year economic development budget of $323,000 – adding that the firm will provide a summary of focus groups' input in early November, and a draft report in mid-February 2014.
The effort, which White termed the county’s Economic Development Planning Initiative, will involve Garner Economics in a broad, collaborative process throughout the county, Ricks said. She said the initiative would involve more than 100 community partners in small focus groups, sharing information about resources and identifying companies and types of industries that might be interested in the county.
In a news release, White said the initiative will identify ways to: “attract and retain new and expanding businesses; build and maintain the county’s infrastructure; protect the environment through innovative programs; and develop, maintain and implement comprehensive plans for land use, economic development, infrastructure and environmental programs.”
White explained that the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County will co-chair this initiative. University of North Carolina Wilmington Chancellor Gary Miller and Cape Fear Community College President Ted Spring will co-chair a steering committee of business, government and environmental representatives in the area. The committee will also identify individuals to participate in focus groups, and will supervise the activity of those groups.
“Over the coming months, Jay will oversee and facilitate the compilation of opinions and data, and will make recommendations to the city and county governments at the end of the period. This initiative will give us a clear path forward,” White said at the press conference. “I cannot overemphasize the importance of enfranchising all segments of our community in this important dialogue and common goal. The end result must give us, as local policy makers and elected officials, a clear idea of what our citizens want.
Founded in 2003, Garner Economics LLC has served more than 100 clients and has expertise in industry targeting, analytical research, site selection, strategic planning and organizational development.
Garner was the keynote speaker at the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting in April, where he emphasized the key role that leadership plays in spurring a region’s economic development.