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Business Leaders Respond To Potential PPD Sale

By Alison Lee Satake, posted Jul 18, 2011

In the wake of news that PPD is exploring a potential sale, Wilmington business leaders weighed today in on the impact such a sale could have on the community.

“I hope it’s a rumor,” said Connie Majure-Rhett, president of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. “Several things could happen. Somebody buys it and keeps it similar, or a new owner could have no commitment to Wilmington.”

Downtown leader John Hinnant sees the potential threat.

“This is going to pose a big challenge to our community,” he said. As executive director of Wilmington Downtown Inc. he has been working to recruit other companies like PPD downtown. PPD has been a linchpin for downtown redevelopment, especially in the northern part of downtown, he said.

Some, though, said the news might not be bad sign.

“My first instinct is it’s a good sign,” said Lloyd Smith, president of the Cape Fear Economic Development Council. A company the size of PPD does not think of selling if its value is down, he said.

“I guess in the back of my mind, there’s always a concern that the business could be moved, but now that they have such a base here with the investment in the facility and the people, I really doubt that would happen. I can’t understand why anyone would buy a company that large and move it,” he said.

The reasons he sees someone buying a company like PPD is because it has a positive cash flow and good employees.

This could be a wake-up call for the community and those in charge of economic development.

“It’s sexy to recruit big, large companies. But, the biggest challenge all economic development groups have is retaining these companies,” Hinnant said.

The answer lies in presenting a unified front among the city, the chamber, economic development organizations and other stakeholders about what we want, he said.

Wilmington Industrial Development was unable to comment.

Hinnant points to the city of Raleigh as a model.

“Once the decision happens, a delegation needs to be in the conference room with the new owner,” Hinnant said.

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