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County, City Eye Funding For Regional Economic Development Groups In Upcoming Budgets

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted May 18, 2021
New Hanover County and the city of Wilmington are looking at funding several economic development items for the next fiscal year.

New Hanover County Commissioners were presented with the county’s $461 million recommended budget for the fiscal year 2021-22 in a meeting Tuesday. The budget shows an increase of 15.5% from the FY 2020‐21 adopted budget.

The budget includes money for several organizations that have been earmarked funding to help promote job creation and private investment. Those organizations include Wilmington Business Development (WBD), Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI), Wilmington Regional Film Commission and the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.

The county is carving out $208,600 for WBD, an economic development organization serving Wilmington and New Hanover and Pender counties. That’s up slightly from what the organization received in the budget this fiscal year, $205,949.

WDI is recommended to receive $75,000, up from $42,250 the downtown business and economic development group was allocated by the county this fiscal year. And in support for the area's film industry, the Wilmington Regional Film Commission is earmarked for $133,692, up from the $131,457 it received from the county this fiscal year, and the Cucalorus Film Foundation would get $25,000, the same amount received this fiscal year.

In addition, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is recommended to receive $181,000 for year one of a three‐year plan "for business retention, expansion and recruitment,” stated the county budget.

When reached for comment Tuesday about this plan being recommended for county funding, chamber officials said the details are still being finalized and that the chamber would share more information about the plan soon.

"We are excited to engage with our partners to impact economic growth with a particular focus on small- and medium-sized enterprises," Natalie English, the chamber's president and CEO, said Tuesday.

The county has also allocated $15,000 for a student generation study “to help the county identify when to expect growth and plan for the future,” according to the budget.

In economic development incentives, National Gypsum is lined up to get another payment of $70,000 from the county, a line item that has come up since the company chose to locate in the Wilmington area and restart its operations here in 2018.

Genesis Block Labs LLC, a community collaborative and coworking space in downtown Wilmington, has also been allocated a proposed $25,000 in the recommended budget for the next fiscal year.

The county’s full recommended budget can be viewed here.

The city of Wilmington has recommended a total projected budget of nearly $242 million, an increase from the current fiscal year budget of nearly $207 million.

The city, in a three-year financial commitment plan for economic development and civil partner agencies, has earmarked $102,000 for WBD and $100,000 for WDI. For the area’s film agencies, the city has recommended $121,890 for the Wilmington Regional Film Commission and $22,000 for the Cucalorus Film Foundation.

And for Genesis Block, under the city’s general fund agencies, $25,000 has been carved out for one‐time funding to “contribute to entrepreneurship and small business development programs geared toward minorities, women and underserved segments of the community,” stated the city’s budget.
 
In total, the city has allocated $514,290 in the next fiscal year’s recommended budget for its economic and civic partner agencies.

In infrastructure related to economic development, the city has also recommended $3.5 million for initiatives related to its proposed Wilmington Rail Realignment project, which aims to move the existing rail infrastructure that currently runs through the city elsewhere and provide more direct rail access to the Port of Wilmington.

The city’s full recommended budget for FY 2021-22 can be viewed here. The new fiscal year begins on June 1.
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