Print
2020 In Biz

Publisher's Note: Looking Back, Finding Gaps And Reaching For A Summit

By Rob Kaiser, posted Jan 3, 2020
(Photo by Suzi Drake)
I met recently with CastleBranch CEO Brett Martin about this 2020 In Biz project – looking back and ahead 20 years at our community.
 
What I learned is he likes talking about mountains (which I suppose isn’t surprising for the founder of tekMountain).
 
He drew a mountain and then two horizontal lines, segmenting it into three sections.
 
The base of the mountain represented the beginning of modern entrepreneurship in our region. He wrote “Beach” in that section to signify that people like himself, PPD founder Fred Eshelman and Live Oak Bank founder Chip Mahan moved here for lifestyle reasons and the community benefited when their start-ups became sizable employers.
 
Today, Brett puts our region on the middle of the mountain. Several entrepreneurial ventures have grown into sizable companies, and an increasing number of upstarts are percolating at tekMountain, UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and other parts of the community.
 
But Brett is concerned.
 
He ticks off a list of issues – there’s significant competition with other regions, which are better positioned for success. While the beach is a draw, it also limits how much talent is around our region. And the threat of hurricanes will keep away many large companies.
 
Right now, he said, we’re doing “horizontal climbing,” drawing squiggly lines up and down the side of the mountain. “Everyone is moving, but you’re not gaining a lot of altitude.”
 
“Our path to success is not paved,” he added. “We could easily slip back.”
 
What would that look like?
 
Imagine, he said, a couple of our major employers leaving town.
 
“I think we’re in an avalanche moment, and the community doesn’t see it,” he said.
 
Brett thinks the community should undertake two visioning exercises – one where we reach the summit and the other which is a worst-case scenario.
 
I think of this as the Charleston and Myrtle Beach extremes.
 
Charleston, which is a community Brett places atop the mountain, is a shining example of a region that found a way to blend tourism, manufacturing and a technology scene into a thriving economy.
 
Myrtle Beach is primarily a tourist draw, which is likely where we’d head with a loss of major employers.
 
Brett emphasizes the need for our region to have a vision and define our summit. That way we can see the gaps between our present location and the top of the mountain.
 
“To climb up, we have to organize,” he said. “We’re not organized.”
 
This captures what I often hear – our region does okay because we’re a tourist and retirement destination and because entrepreneurs like Brett, Fred and Chip have grown businesses here.
 
But we don’t have a coordinated strategy to try to reach a summit. We don’t market our region as a destination for business. And our region isn’t working together on gaps we need to fill because we’re not headed toward a common destination.
 
Looking back down and up the mountain is pretty much the point of our 2020 In Biz project. We’re taking the year of the Business Journal’s 20th anniversary to look back at where our community has come since 2000 and where we want to go by 2040.
 
We’ll do this with a range of stories, opinion pieces, large events and small discussion groups.
 
We hope you’ll be a part of it. Please let us know what topics you think we should address and if you have ideas you’d like to share.
 
We’ll look at where are region has been as well as current conditions, but our main goal is to help spark conversation and actions toward where we want to go.
 
Please share your thoughts with me at [email protected] and Editor Vicky Janowski at [email protected].

Rob Kaiser is the publisher of Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
Ico insights

INSIGHTS

SPONSORS' CONTENT
Mike stonestreet 300x300

Want To Be An Amazing Neighbor? Five Ways To Start (And Some Things To Avoid)

Mike Stonestreet - CAMS (Community Association Management Services)
Dave sweyer 300 x 300

Receive A Permanent Change Of Station? 5 Reasons Members Of The Military Should Consider Becoming Landlords

Dave Sweyer - Sweyer Property Management
Tonyharrington wrar300x300

Let’s #Rebuild Together

Tony Harrington - Cape Fear REALTORS®

Trending News

Developer Provides Update On River Place, Other Major Projects

Cece Nunn - Sep 30, 2020

Wilmington Firm Acquires Arizona-based Software Provider

Staff Reports - Sep 29, 2020

ILM Passengers Trending Up; Boston Nonstop Eyed For 2021

Christina Haley O'Neal - Sep 28, 2020

First Watch Prepares For Mayfaire Opening; Independence Mall To Follow

Jessica Maurer - Sep 30, 2020

CEO: A.R.C. Transit's Acquisition Will Boost Firm Growth

Christina Haley O'Neal - Sep 29, 2020

In The Current Issue

Info Junkie: Michealle Gady

Michealle Gady, founder, president and CEO of Atrómitos, an SBA-certified woman-owned management consulting business, shares her tech and in...


Connecting The Business Community Amid The Shutdowns

This year's WilmingtonBiz Conference & Expo is a little different, but still aims to help the area's business community make vital one-on-on...


Biz Expo Keynote: North Carolina's Race For The U.S. Senate

U.S. Senator Thom Tillis and challenger Cal Cunningham will speak at the 2020 Wilm­ingtonBiz Conference & Expo....

Book On Business

The 2020 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!


Galleries

Videos

2020 Leadership Accelerator: Virtual Workshops for Real Leaders
2019 Health Care Heroes
August 26, 2019 Power Breakfast: A Healthy Sale?
2019 WilmingtonBiz Expo Keynote Lunch - CEO, nCino, Pierre Naude`