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Local Leaders React To Fortune Magazine's Chemours Feature

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jun 8, 2018
A year ago, local news stories first began to report on the presence of GenX in the Cape Fear River and the source of the chemical, The Chemours Co., which conducts operations in Bladen County.

But the news has also gained national attention, most recently in the June 1 issue of Fortune magazine, which has a total average circulation of more than 858,000 people in the United States, as well as a global presence.

Titled “Teflon’s River of Fear,” the lengthy article highlights Chemours and the impacts of GenX on the local Cape Fear Region, and gives an in-depth recap of the events of the controversial water quality concerns and ongoing legal issues against Chemours. It also highlights the company and its products.

When asked about the article and its impact on the perception of the region, local community leaders had several things to say about the article, including its message to those inside and outside the Cape Fear community.

“In the long run, I think understanding a range of perspectives on this complex issue will help us learn and grow as a community,” said Tyler Newman, president and CEO of Business Alliance for a Sound Economy.

For Newman, the takeaway was how the region collaborated on this challenge.

“Our local elected officials stood together at the forefront to call for action, our water providers moved forward with investments to continue to provide top quality water and our legislators advanced bills to fund continuing scientific research and analysis,” he said.

New Hanover County Commissioner Rob Zapple agreed. He said the area continues to see a boost in migration, as projected by the county. 

"I think that is a real message for a large company or people who move here is we have a well educated sophisticated community that is concerned about protecting our environment and our water, and all of our unique coastal [resources] and we're not sitting back and letting it happen to us. We're moving ahead to correct any problems we have and if I were looking at Southeastern North Carolina, that's what I would look to," Zapple said.

New Hanover County Board of Commissioners Chairman Woody White said in an email that the article was "well written" and "correctly conveys the history and meanderings of this incredible story that arose one year ago ..."

It honed in the information commissioners and other community leaders received last June during its initial meeting with Chemours, White said, adding that it demonstrates the "importance of that meeting that I pushed so hard to take place. The information we gained in those 96 minutes framed the questions we have asked since, and the progress that we have made as a region."

White said he doesn't think there will be long-term negative impacts from the article.

"The article paints a poor picture of Chemours and DuPont's actions over the last 30+ years, and as a whole, the article's central questions are inconclusive," White wrote in the email. "However, I believe that it aptly describes how this region has pulled together and demanded answers. We have made tremendous progress in 1) getting information to the public and 2) in applying continued pressure from a variety of angles, on Chemours.  Anyone looking at this issue from the outside would correctly conclude that the progress we are making is due to our unified and persistent response from the first day forward."

Natalie English, president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, said “As far as the article itself I think it's very thoughtful. I think it's what I would expect from a Fortune magazine would be about any company. It does a fantastic job …and I think it was very balanced.”

With people and businesses, she said the article portrays the area in a good light, one that is not overly reactive to business but that's also balanced with its responsiveness to the local community. 

"Businesses are watching how we respond ... I think that [they will see] a methodical thoughtful process that we are following and will appreciate that we are not developing new regulations based on non-approved actual toxicity levels," English said, adding that volatile reactions by local or state government can have a negative impact on business.

"The fact that we are taking steps and listening to scientists … as they review and test and review and test again, that we’re not being overly reactive,” English said.
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