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Business Growth
Mar 15, 2023

The GIN at Castle: Connecting Communities to Prosperity

Sponsored Content provided by Girard Newkirk - Co-founder & CEO , Genesis Block

According to the Brookings Institute, innovation districts are dense engines of economic activity where research-oriented anchor institutions, high-growth firms, and tech and creative startups exist within an amenity rich residential and commercial area. The Genesis Innovation Neighborhood model adopts this framework to develop hyper local, inclusive entrepreneur Ecosystems. Why can’t we afford the same resource profile for our community entrepreneurs that are afforded for technology companies and the ‘high growth” sector.

Since its establishment in February 2020, Genesis Block has established itself by helping local small business owners grow their companies and creating an inclusive gathering place for business and community leaders.

We are excited to take the next step in our journey to build the entreprenuer class by connecting communities to inclusive innovation districts. We have made a formal bid to the City of Wilmington for the tract of land at 1110 Castle Street in hopes the city of Wilmington will designate this a municipal services district devoted to local entrepreneurship development and minority business growth. We intend to develop this property as an innovation district to include incubators, shared workspaces, Block Eatz, flexible housing, commercial space and recreational activities.

Centrally located between the revitalization efforts in the Cargo District and the West end of Castle Street, this property is the perfect gateway to connect the Castle Street community to economic development andentrepreneurship resources. Historically, Castle Street was literally “Black Wall Street’ for the Black community in Wilmington. Intentionally and collaboratively developing this as an economic development corridor for minority enterprise development completely aligns with the intent of the Rise Together Initiative.

The Genesis Innovation Neighborhood establishes the clustering of existing regional economic strengths and partners into a clear framework dedicated to community development and entrepreneurship. The Genesis Innovation Neighborhood integrates innovation, workforce housing, recreation and resources into one inclusive environment.

Genesis Block manages three brands that support its mission to advance entrepreneurship.

Genesis Block Academy offers three curriculum-based training programs designed to support early stage startups, community entrepreneurs, diverse owned businesses and local small business owners with the development of sustainable business models. The Genesis Block Academy has graduated over 50 companies that collectively generated over $16 million in economic activity in 2022.

Genesis Bridge is a supplier diversity platform that simplifies connecting with highly minority owned businesses. Genesis Block has a 2023 goal to connect minority owned firms to $2.5 million in contracts through its Converting Conversations to Contracts trade show platform. Genesis Block has established partnerships with the North Carolina Department of Transportation, North State Bank, Novant Health, UNCW and others to grow a pipeline of qualified minority firms to support their supply chains.

Block Eatz is a food hall incubator aimed at supporting local food entrepreneurs with marketing, entrepreneur training and a high traffic retail environment to strengthen their ventures. Genesis Block is in partnership with Cape Fear Community College to host the food hall at the McKeithan Center on the north campus of Cape Fear Community College.

The Genesis Innovation Neighborhood combines this resource network into a clustered development providing the foundation to build the entrepreneur class in communities block by block.

We are asking that our friends, collaborators and community partners send a letter of support to policymakers endorsing our bid to develop 1110 Castle Street as a municipal services district intentionally designed to develop community entrepreneurship.

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