By next fall, Wilmington could hear the results of a new economic health check-up.
Cape Fear Future, an initiative of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, is in the process of developing an economic scorecard for the Wilmington area that would come out annually, similar to the one produced by organizations in Charleston, South Carolina
“We want our elected leaders, our business community to be able to make decisions based on reality,” Connie Majure-Rhett, CEO and president of the chamber, said Friday.
The scorecard “will benchmark our region against other peer regions,” Majure-Rhett wrote in her October President’s Report.
“The publication is not intended to be a marketing piece, but rather an honest assessment of where we excel and where we have challenges that need to be addressed.”
She said the business community and elected officials will be consulted to determine what metrics they would like to see in the scorecard.
Mayor Bill Saffo said he thinks the project will result in a helpful tool.
“I think it’s a good idea, and it gives people something to shoot for if we need improvement in specific areas,” he said Friday.
The scorecard might also be able to indicate specific policies the Wilmington area could pursue to improve its scores in various areas, he added.
Additionally, the publication could help local leaders convince lawmakers and major players in economic development that the needs exist. “It will give us some concrete evidence to share with others when we’re making a case for funding something,” Saffo said.
Majure-Rhett said the scorecard will likely come out next year in late October or early November. Last week, she traveled to Charleston for the unveiling of its 2014 regional economic scorecard, produced by the Charleston Regional Development Alliance and Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, and met with officials there to learn more about the process.
According to the Charleston scorecard, which has been produced for the past five years, a task force of business and community leaders selected six similar cities and two benchmark cities – Austin, Texas and Raleigh – based on a diverse mix of economic assets comparable to Charleston’s. In Raleigh, the scorecard says those assets are strong job growth, research and development, higher education and its status on national lists as a “best place to live.”
One example of a comparison included in the 2014 Charleston scorecard is regional employment growth. From 2005 to 2013, Charleston ranked third behind Raleigh and Austin in that area.
UNCW will help provide the data for the Wilmington-area scorecard, Majure-Rhett said, and the publication could have an estimated total cost of about $50,000, a potential figure that Majure-Rhett bases on Charleston's costs.
In addition to information about the scorecard, Majure-Rhett provided a chamber update on the efforts of city and New Hanover County officials to address another economic development analysis, Pathways to Prosperity
, also called the Garner Report. She said that chamber leadership met with Wilmington city manager Sterling Cheatham and county manager Chris Coudriet last Friday to discuss implementation of the report, which was compiled by Atlanta-based consulting firm Garner Economics.
The county paid more than $100,000 for the report.
"City and County staff are currently working on recommendations for the first six focus areas
, including studying best practices from other cities. Staff will present a report in approximately 30 days. The City and County are also committed to following up on the additional 16 recommendations included in the report. The Chamber will be providing recommendations on those items," Majure-Rhett wrote.