Wilmington is a great area to live and work, attracting very talented individuals and companies due to the quality of place. From its early days as a major port, Wilmington has historically been an industrial city. Unfortunately, along with some of those industrial uses can come heavy pollution.
In the past, the Wilmington area relied heavily upon the recruitment of industrial businesses as the economic development playbook for the area. That approach led to the controversial recruitment of and incentives for a Titan Cement plant in 2008. Out of the community pushback over the proposed Titan plant came the Special Use Permit (SUP) process. This process is a way for New Hanover County to consider all the impacts and benefits of heavy industry development.
There is currently a movement in New Hanover County to revise the SUP process to a form that would allow a streamlined process while still providing the community protections that are needed. In the end, a streamlined process that still protects our community would be a win-win for everyone. The process isn't pro-business or anti-business. It's about having a framework in place that allows our government to protect the interests of the community and not operate as though negative impacts from heavy industrial uses do not exist.
Regardless of how the SUP process revision plays out, it is time for the Wilmington area and the entities involved to rethink economic development and what is needed for Wilmington to have smart, positive growth. You don’t have to drive too far up I-40 to see other approaches that have worked in the past 10 years.
There is more to economic development than just large industrial plants. Startups, technology companies and early stage investors can play a critical role in economic development and adding plenty of high-paying jobs to an area. Those jobs are added with minimal adverse environmental impacts and are the future of economic development.
It's time for the chamber of commerce, the county and the City of Wilmington to become more engaged and aware of this segment of our community as it continues to expand.
We only need to look to Live Oak Bank, nCino, Castle Branch, tekMountain and NextGlass as local leaders in this segment of the community. They show what is possible, as far as job creation and economic development. While all of these companies are successful, several of them are still just in the early stages of their journey and their impact on the community. If any of these companies have a notable exit event, it will generate a flow of people with capital, experience and willingness to take risks to help develop new companies in the area.
The Network for Entrepreneurs in Wilmington will host the North American Tech Tour in early October. Our firm is proud to be a sponsor of the event. One of the many sessions is on how to make entrepreneur development part of economic development. Hopefully, that session will open some eyes around here and help people realize that entrepreneurship can play a vital role in economic development. I hope to see many of you there.
Adam Shay, CPA (N.C. License Number 35961), MBA, is managing partner of Adam Shay CPA, PLLC. He focuses on minimizing taxes and improving the financial results of entrepreneurs, and is actively involved in supporting the Wilmington entrepreneurial and startup community. For more information, visit http://www.wilmingtontaxesandaccounting.com/ or email him at [email protected]. He can also be reached by phone at (910) 256-3456.
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