The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce has undergone a year of change and transition.
Upon the retirement of long-time president Connie Majure-Rhett in May, I was asked to serve in an interim president capacity so a national search for the best available chamber leader could take place.
It had been five years since I semi-retired from the Detroit Chamber of Commerce presidency, but I jumped at the chance to take on a new challenge.
With a solid, experienced staff and capable, visionary leadership on our board of directors, the transition was smooth. We have a hard-working team at the chamber that puts in countless hours on behalf of the business community, and I've been proud to be part of it.
In fact, one of the hardest aspects of the role has simply been the commute to and from Southport, especially after a long city council meeting!
After leading several different chambers over the course of my career - Pennsylvania, Greenville, South Carolina and 15 years in Detroit - I can say the Wilmington Chamber has done an excellent job defining its niche as the advocate for the business community, both through its own efforts and by establishing partnerships to leverage the resources and voices of other economic development entities.
We are all stronger when we stand together, and I am most proud of our work over the last six months to strengthen and expand these alliances with organizations like Wilmington Business Development, BASE and the chambers and economic developers in the four-county region (Columbus County being brought to the table for the first time).
One of the key messages that came out of the chamber’s InterCity Visits to Charleston, South Carolina in 2015 and Richmond, Virginia this year is that collaboration is key to guiding fruitful economic development and enacting quality-of-life initiatives that will make us the envy of other communities. This regional collaboration will become an ever-present mantra at the Wilmington Chamber as we move forward.
This week, a report from The Milken Institute ranked Wilmington as the 54th Best Performing Large City in the United States, a 16-point jump from last year. Wilmington ranked third among North Carolina cities, with only Raleigh (#6) and Charlotte (#12) above us in economic productivity.
The report analyzed new jobs, wage and salary growth, and technology industry growth (including high-tech gross domestic product growth and concentration) in Metropolitan Statistical areas, as defined by the 2010 census. Two of our area’s strongest performing categories were job growth and high-tech GDP growth. Wilmington’s job growth in 2014-15 ranked as 37th among large cities, while high-tech GDP growth between 2010-15 was 27th best.
This incredibly positive news isn’t the result of something that happened overnight, but is instead the culmination of years of work by the Wilmington Chamber and its partners to create a pro-business environment and exceptional quality of life, by UNC-Wilmington and Cape Fear Community College developing a workforce with the required skills for an ever-changing marketplace, by the city and county creating a shared vision through comprehensive planning and investing in infrastructure, through the promotion of entrepreneurship by business incubators like tekMountain and the UNCW’s CIE, and much more.
To see some of the ingredients the chamber has brought to the table this year, I invite you to take a look at our Year In Review publication that highlights our work in 2016.
These and other initiatives will continue to form the basis of our ever-expanding program of work in 2017, as we welcome a new chamber president and I explore semi-retirement once again.
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The 2023 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.