Our Cape Fear Region is in an enviable position. We’re not only experiencing a steady recovery from the 2008 recession, but according to recent trends and predictions, we should anticipate yet another huge growth spurt and market expansion over the next 25 years through net natural increases and expanded incoming relocations.
Our outlook is bright and optimistic. We’ve turned a corner and many concerns for the future are a thing of the past. Our region is thriving again. We can sit back and enjoy. Well, not quite just yet.
Growth and development can also pose many challenges and advantages to the region. If we’re not looking and anticipating the possible scenarios for these changes, it may be difficult to maintain the quality of life and every day services that we love about this area.
During a recent public forum in Southport, I had the opportunity to hear a local citizen share his observations about traffic in his town. As a lifelong resident, he’d seen traffic tie-ups in his area go from nonexistent to daily occurrences. He described the changes seeming like a sudden shift overnight. “Where did they all come from?” he asked himself. Sure, the population in Southport area had increased, but even more significant was incoming tourism and business traffic from surrounding towns and the growth of New Hanover County. This is just one example of how unanticipated growth can greatly impact our quality of life.
So, how can we be ready for the future without losing the very qualities that make our region so attractive? The answer is in developing a comprehensive regional plan. Planning is the key to thoughtful growth and development and we have our best opportunity to engage in this process now.
Regional planning isn’t a novel idea. Every major metropolitan area strives to plan growth regionally. Those that are successful are able to expand the economy, support business development, improve the quality of life and expand opportunities for its citizens. Successful regions ultimately attract capital, talent and even more success. Successful cities and their neighbors do all this without losing their special community identities, but by understanding that there is strength in numbers.
Areas with robust, well-developed regions understand the advantages of managed growth. Take the thriving Charleston, South Carolina, area as an example. For years, leadership from the three counties that comprise the Greater Charleston region have worked together to share local thoughts, initiatives, and ideas with the goal of empowering the greater area. The strength of the region as a whole has established Charleston as having an incredibly strong sense of place and the tri-county area is viewed as the coastal engine for the state.
By working together to establish a regional plan, the Greater Wilmington region has that same opportunity to seize the opportunity and to ensure the things we hold important are still available to us in the future. Regionally we can also position ourselves as an increasingly influential, enviable coastal locality both statewide and beyond.
At this point, you may be wondering exactly what regional planning is about.
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