This is an important election year locally, statewide and nationally, coupled with a short session of the N.C. General Assembly. In addition, one-third of the N.C. Senate will be leaving in 2016 due to retirement and legislators leaving office to return full-time to the private sector. With the N.C. House divided over controversial issues and redistricting maps still in the courts, the political landscape isn’t shaping up to be favorable for new, inventive legislation. Most likely, caution will be the prevailing wind.
With these realities in mind, the Wilmington Chamber Executive Committee developed our 2016 Public Policy Agenda through a strategic planning process led by Mick Fleming, the president of the American Chamber of Commerce Executives; by consulting Business Alliance for a Sound Economy (BASE) and other stakeholders; and through input from chamber members on issues affecting their ability to do business. The agenda is structured to ensure that the chamber remains focused on promoting business growth and facilitating investment in the community. We will continue to focus on supporting initiatives that will encourage a pro-business environment and oppose those that are harmful to the area’s economic climate, especially in regard to rebuilding our dwindling manufacturing sector.
The scope of the 2016 Public Policy Agenda is evidence of the numerous opportunities and challenges that exist regarding economic development. With four main focus areas, the agenda ranges from advocating for sustainable funding sources for our beaches to supporting the creation of a career technical education (CTE) high school. The items included are all supportive and encouraging stances, except for one that is in opposition.
Below are the four main focus areas for 2016:
- Use the Wilmington Region Economic Scorecard to embrace transformational opportunities in entrepreneurship and innovation
- Seek opportunities to build productive regional partnerships, especially with counterparts in Brunswick and Pender counties
- Encourage collaboration between state and local elected officials on issues of regional importance
- Continue to spearhead community initiatives such as collaborative efforts on crime
- Monitor major transportation initiatives: Surface Transportation Act (federal), implementation of Strategic Transportation Investment Plan (state), Highway 74 study (regional), and Wilmington MPO (local)
- Support Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s efforts to expand the water and sewer system and build its customer base
- Continue to advocate for sustainable funding sources for beaches, inlets and waterfronts
- Encourage continued investment in the Port of Wilmington and Wilmington International Airport
- Promote continued progress on initiatives outlined in Jay Garner’s Pathways to Prosperity as a guide for economic development strategy in the New Hanover and Wilmington Comprehensive Plans
- Monitor efforts to enhance state and local business recruitment incentives
- Promote tools to enhance the desirable, traded-sector film production industry
- Oppose efforts that do not streamline the New Hanover County Special Use Permit process
- Encourage the New Hanover County Board of Education to expand Project Lead the Way’s Gateway to Technology STEM program that was initially funded by Cape Fear Future
- Support the efforts of New Hanover County Schools and Cape Fear Community College to open a CTE high school on the north campus of Cape Fear Community College
The chamber’s new Public Policy Roundtable will focus on each item of our agenda. We want to hear real-world examples from local business people on specific items included in the agenda – especially in regard to the business permitting process – as well as the overall theme of promoting economic growth. We expect new ideas and future agenda topics to emerge from these discussions, and will share that feedback as the roundtables proceed.
The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is the largest membership-based business association in Southeastern North Carolina. The Chamber’s mission is to ensure economic prosperity throughout our region. This is accomplished by: creating a diverse, inclusive organization that serves as a strong voice for businesses in the Greater Wilmington area; offering unique membership benefits, services and education; and challenging government officials to address long-term community and business interests.