A couple of months ago I wrote an Insights that explored some of the reasons businesses typically give for not choosing Wilmington as a home base for operations. And while there are some obstacles to overcome and some changes we need to make to become a more attractive destination for businesses (better infrastructure, tax incentives, startup support and incentives), I want to focus this Insights on some of the positives that make Wilmington a great place for businesses.
I don't think any of the selling points I cover here will come as a surprise, but my hope is to remind readers that Wilmington has a lot to offer businesses and to increase awareness of some of these positive points. That way, when we as residents of this city are communicating with others involved in business, we can share these messages and reinforce them in a consistent way. In other words, we, the citizens of Wilmington, can take a proactive role in being advocates of Wilmington and to promote our town as a great place to operate and do business.
Before I begin listing some of the selling points of Wilmington, I want to point out that sharing success stories is a great way to show that Wilmington does have the necessary ingredients for business success. From startup businesses, such as nCino, Castle Branch and Live Oak Bank, to major corporations that have opened facilities here, such as PPD, Verizon, General Electric and Corning, our city has many examples of highly successful businesses in a variety of industries. I also happen to know of a few local startups that are in the early stages of business development but show promise for rapid and substantial growth and the potential for long-term success and job creation.
Now let's get to it ... here are five reasons businesses should come to Wilmington:
- Quality of Life – No surprise here; this is a big one for us. We have fantastic weather, nearby beaches, a historic riverfront and downtown, great restaurants, friendly people and a laid-back, casual attitude that keeps stress at bay.
- Higher Education – We have two outstanding schools, Cape Fear Community College and UNCW, that do a great job of preparing and training smart, enthusiastic graduates, many of whom come to and want to stay in Wilmington because of the quality of life.
- Capable and Plentiful Workforce – Due primarily to the quality of life, Wilmington attracts people with a wide range of skills and expertise. Many of our residents worked and gained experience at companies in larger metropolitan areas and then moved here for the lifestyle. When you consider transfers to our community with the college grads, there is no shortage of smart, hardworking people in our diverse workforce.
- Powerful Retiree Population – One might not think of our large population of retirees as a selling point, but our retiree community includes a wealth of intellect, experience and business savvy. Once again, the quality of life, which includes great weather, great golf and great restaurants, is a magnet for retirees, many of whom had long, successful careers in the business world. I know many retirees who help manage charities, churches and other organizations and act as mentors for a younger generation of Wilmington workers. Wilmington has a concentrated population of men and women who have incredible business acumen, and their value to our community should not be overlooked or underestimated.
- Diversified Economy – Wilmington is not dependent on one company or industry to provide the vast majority of our jobs. Our economy is very diversified, and just like a financial portfolio, diversification equates to stability. When our film industry was devastated and all but disappeared, it hurt but didn’t kill us. Homebuilding continues to grow and other industries absorbed the blow of film's loss. Our economy is made up of businesses working in industries that include:
- Imports, exports and distribution (we’re a port city)
- Education (UNCW and CFCC)
Yes, we have room for improvement. Yes, there are some steps we can and should take to make Wilmington even more appealing to businesses. But let’s not forget that there are some great reasons for businesses to come here right now – and let’s not be shy about bragging about our wonderful, one-of-a-kind city.
Grayson Powell is a Managing Partner at Coldwell Banker Commercial Sun Coast Partners (CBCSCP). CBCSCP leverages the vast experience of highly skilled real estate professionals and developers and specialize in selling, leasing and managing retail, commercial, and investment property. To learn more about CBCSCP, visit www.cbcwilmington.com or call 910-350-1200.