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Economic Development
Aug 1, 2015

Honoring Cape Fear Community College

Sponsored Content provided by W. Grayson Powell - Broker, Managing Partner, Coldwell Banker Commercial SunCoast

In my last Insights, I talked about some of the reasons why businesses from outside Wilmington might be hesitant to choose our city as their home base. In this article, I would like to highlight one of the best reasons a business might and should choose Wilmington – one that we should be highlighting and emphasizing every time a business shows an interest in coming here. I'm not talking about our beaches, our favorable weather or our historic downtown area. All of those are good reasons for a business to come here, and there are many other reasons as well. However, the benefit I want to showcase today is one that is often undervalued and overlooked. I'm talking about the presence of Cape Fear Community College (CFCC).
Every year I have the good fortune of attending an annual CFCC fundraiser, and I am always impressed and amazed with what our local community college is achieving, how it’s helping individuals and our community at large. I think sometimes CFCC is undervalued because there is a general perception that a community college may not offer as much as a university, such as UNCW. Perhaps in Wilmington, one could argue that CFCC exists in the shadow of UNCW. Please understand that I am not knocking UNCW. We are very fortunate to have such a well-respected university in our town, and perhaps soon I will feature the value UNCW adds to this town in an Insights article. But I do think that many people under appreciate CFCC. Not to mention the fact that I've been almost moved to tears on more than one occasion by inspiring stories I've heard at CFCC fundraisers. So, before I get into the incredible impact that CFCC has on this area, I want to share a couple of stories about the impact it has had on the lives of two individuals.
I think sometimes when we hear the word “college student,” we automatically think of young people who have recently graduated from high school. We think of young students around the ages of 18 to 22 who are preparing to go to a four-year university or enter the workforce. CFCC certainly helps a lot of young people do just that, but it's not just a school – it's a valuable organization offering practical, in-demand training for real-world work. CFCC helps all kinds of people with different backgrounds and stories to tell ...
At the most recent CFCC fundraiser, a man (we'll call him Ed) shared his story about how CFCC had basically saved his life. Ed's childhood had revolved around playing basketball, and he was actually pretty good at it. Although he didn’t make it to the NBA, he was good enough to make a few bucks playing semi-pro basketball. Ed made enough to get by, but not enough to save much. After a while, age slowed him down and he was no longer able to make a living playing basketball. The problem for Ed was that basketball was all he had ever known. Ed had dedicated so much of his life to playing ball that he had no time to learn other skills. He had trouble finding a decent job and eventually found himself destitute and addicted to drugs. Ed didn't have much to smile about in those days, but the one ray of light in this life was going to see the occasional CFCC basketball game. One day Ed mustered up the courage to ask Ryan Mantlo, CFCC's basketball coach, if there were some odd jobs around the gym that he could do to make money. Coach Mantlo invited Ed to practices and got him involved in a number of activities, including helping the players learn the game. Ed did a great job and through an educational foundation, CFCC is now funding his education and preparing him for a career in food services.
At the same fundraiser a woman (we'll call her Ann) shared her story. Ann is a single mom trying to take care of her kids. Through a series of unfortunate incidents she found herself homeless. Desperate to turn her life around, she proactively approached CFCC and asked if there was any way for her to get some job training. Sensing her sincerity and her willingness to do whatever it took to better her situation, CFCC paid for Ann to complete its paralegal program. After completing the program, Ann found a job with a local law firm, where she still works today. Ann was also eventually able to afford a home for herself and her children.
A community is made up of individuals. When you help individuals, you help the entire community. Ed and Ann are in the Wilmington workforce now. They are circulating money back into the economy and helping it grow. Ed and Ann are just two examples out of thousands of people who have benefited from CFCC programs. Just guess how many students are enrolled at CFCC during any given semester – 5,000? 10,000? 20,000? Not even close. The average enrollment at CFCC (including courses for degree credits and non-credit courses) is nearly 30,000 students. Equally amazing is the fact that an estimated 85 percent of CFCC students stay in the Wilmington area after being trained here.*
CFCC keeps many local students from leaving the area. It attracts thousands from outside our area every year, and provides a consistent flow of workers into our workforce. Look at these statistics:

  • Out-of-region CFCC students generate more than $27 million in net off-campus sales in our area. A multiplier effect of these sales adds an additional $22.4 million, which is the equivalent of 357 jobs.*
  • The impact of CFCC alumni, which is a combination of area net sales plus multiplier effects, comes to more than $485 million, which equates to 8,266 jobs.*
  • The total annual impact of CFCC, which includes operations spending, construction spending, student spending and alumni spending, is about $584,250,000, which equates to 10,195 jobs, or 7 percent of jobs in the area.*  
I mentioned at the beginning of this article that CFCC should be one of the benefits we emphasize when pitching Wilmington to prospective businesses. I say this not only because CFCC provides a constant stream of young, motivated and educated workers, but also because CFCC is willing to build curriculum and programs around business' specific needs. CFCC will literally create educational programs designed to teach skills and knowledge necessary for specific job responsibilities within specific industries and business settings. A company can move to Wilmington and in many cases have a built-in training program provided by CFCC so that students are available to start working from day one. This cuts down tremendously on the time and money required to train employees internally.

Many former CFCC students have gone on to open their own businesses. These businesses use commercial property in the area, which affects the entire commercial sector and improves the value of properties. As a commercial real estate agent, my business is directly and positively impacted by CFCC. Besides that, I once took a class there after receiving a speeding ticket in order to keep my insurance from going up.
For all of these reasons and more, I think it is impossible to truly quantify the value that CFCC adds to this community. In last month's article I talked about how we as a community should be selling our area to outside businesses, and this time I want to make it clear that CFCC is one beaming example of what we have to offer. CFCC is making a difference in individual lives, in commercial real estate, in our economy, and in our community. I am grateful it is here.
* All stats came from an Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. report called Demonstrating the Economic Value of Cape Fear Community College, released in January of 2015.
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 or call 910-350-1200.

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