Each year hundreds of thousands of people visit Wilmington in support of the North Carolina Azalea Festival.
While many people have been waiting in anticipation of this week-long community celebration and the entire calendar of events, others are preparing their business for its busiest week of the year. Regardless of where you fall, the upcoming festival encompasses more than just what meets the eye.
With a deeply-rooted history in Wilmington for more than 70 years, the success of the festival is not the only passion of the North Carolina Azalea Festival organization, it also gives back to the local community through its programs and scholarships. Reliant upon its local supporters, these programs, scholarships and the festival as a whole are made possible through community partners and sponsors.
It’s through their support that the festival has been able to make key program enhancements to its largest free public events, the parade and the Waterfront Street Fair. But the dependence on the high number of visitors each year – approximately 300,000 people – is a driving force behind sponsor involvement.
So, the question remains, what exactly does the North Carolina Azalea Festival mean to Wilmington? Aside from infusing an enormous amount of revenue back into the city – more than $48 million last year – the festival also drives a vital and continued interest in our local community. With some of Wilmington’s most notable charms on full display, visitors experience downtown, the beaches, vibrant gardens, rich history, culture, art and music, all in one week-long event.
In my experience, this is a valuable time to attract top talent to the area and cultivate opportunities with current and future partners regarding business in the region. For instance, we are a sponsor of the Azalea Festival Breakfast for the Associated Builders and Contractors Coastal Division. Not only will this breakfast bring in influential people in the building industry from all across North and South Carolina, but it will also expose them to all of what Wilmington has to offer.
The community interest generated by the festival remains an essential component to the future development and expansion in Wilmington and its surrounding areas. Tourism brings growth, and with growth comes the demand for new businesses, infrastructure and hospitality. In turn, not only does there become a need for building functional spaces, but also for building aesthetically pleasing environments.
According to Wilmington Downtown, Inc. (WDI), in 2017 alone, downtown Wilmington saw tremendous growth across the board. There were 46 new businesses, 304 full-time equivalent jobs, 10 companies with expansions or revisions, 46 building renovation and construction projects, and 171 new properties purchased. This doesn’t even include 2018 or the projected population in New Hanover County, which is expected to double between 2010 and 2040.
The hospitality industry is a leading example of growth in our region. In fact, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront was born as a result of Wilmington’s booming industries, tourism and the rising need for more hotels around the downtown area. Recognizing the need to create unique and memorable experiences for guests staying downtown, together with Harmony Hospitality, Inc., Galloway Corp. and Becker Morgan, W.M. Jordan Company helped to make this goal a reality.
Proud to be involved in a project that enriches the community and supports tourism demand, we all helped the Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront create a number of posh additions to the downtown scene. Showcasing its beauty just in time for this year’s Azalea Festival, the hotel boasts a spectacular rooftop bar with panoramic riverfront and historic downtown views, along with a variety of specialty interior finishes, blending a modern and high-end eclectic feel.
By adding 186 new hotel rooms to the downtown area, the Azalea Festival and Wilmington Convention Center can now accommodate more guests nearby. This added convenience will hopefully also generate more interest and exposure to the region by attracting larger conferences to Wilmington.
And let’s not forget the additional value these 186 rooms bring. Whenever a hotel room is booked, it also brings in a critical room occupancy tax for the county, which helps fund our beach nourishment.
Rob is Vice President at W. M. Jordan Company, leading the company’s efforts in the Carolinas region. W.M. Jordan Company provides construction management, design build, development, virtual construction, sustainability and contracting services to a diverse clientele.Rob opened the company’s Wilmington, NC office in 2012 with only five employees. Six years and two office expansions later, he has grown his staff to 34, with a regional revenue of $85 million in 2017. Rob started with W. M. Jordan Company in 1996 as the company’s first college intern. After earning a BS in Construction Management from Virginia Tech, his career at W.M. Jordan Company quickly accelerated, including nearly every aspect of construction service delivery. As a true believer in life-long learning, Rob continues to develop professionally and personally. He is currently completing an Executive Education Program for Leadership Development at Harvard University. Other past pursuits include the Disney Institute’s Leadership Excellence Program, FMI Construction Executive Institute’s Project Executive Course, and AGC of America’s Advanced Management Course. Rob is also on the Board of Directors for the Association of Builders and Contractors (ABC), Carolinas chapter and serves as a member of both the Board of Directors and the Fun Committee for Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI).
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