The Wilmington region is a great place to live, work and visit. The people are great, the community is vibrant and the quality of life is fantastic. However, for an area to continue to grow we need to offer opportunities for our businesses to flourish and most importantly, the perfect climate for entrepreneurs to be successful.
New businesses and startups are the backbone of a vibrant business climate. When I think of an attractive community for entrepreneurs, a few important characteristics come to mind. Entrepreneurs are typically very optimistic, they question how things can be done better or smarter, they are willing to take risks and most of all, they execute.
HOW DOES THIS TRANSLATE TO THE CAPE FEAR REGION?
• We want a well-educated workforce. Continued investments in our colleges and universities is a must. Without the ability to build, attract and retain talent, how can we be successful? This includes full college degree graduates as well as technical skills graduates. Typically, the toughest issue facing any business in this area is finding the right person for the job.
• We want a regulatory climate that makes starting up a business not a herculean task. Do our government leaders require their organizations to be truly business friendly when an application is put in front of them for a new permit, building or license? I often hear from small startup business owners the regulatory approval process is a huge impediment to their early success.
• We want our banking community to be willing to finance startups. Help them build business plans and assist in funding. Calculated risks are crucial for business growth and without capital availability many new businesses don’t have a chance. We want banks in this region that prioritize small business investment.
• A collaborative entrepreneurial spirit is a must. Do our business owners have a common thread in our community to discuss ideas, share challenges and most importantly seek out mentors?
In summary, we have many entrepreneurial success stories in and around our region to be proud of. We have a growing population that translates into growing market opportunities. We have a changing population with the influx of folks from other parts of the nation. This brings new buying patterns and new market demands. For those of us living here and staying here, we want this trend to not only continue but to improve. Most importantly, let’s all ask ourselves, “are we truly business friendly?” The best person to answer that question is an entrepreneur.
Paul Cozza is executive director of the North Carolina State Ports Authority.