COVID has reshaped not just how we live, work, and play but also where we live. While there is a mass exodus from major U.S. cities due to the pandemic, Wilmington has become a destination of choice. In fact, according to United Van Lines, Wilmington was the top location for inbound moves in 2020. Human capital has become a substantial resource and it is being cultivated at UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).
The CIE engages seasoned volunteers with extensive experience in the corporate world and with startups. With 140 mentors, this group dedicates time to growing the startup community.
However, the CIE mentors are doing more than guiding new business owners. A core group of mentors is participating in another CIE initiative – the Alliance for the Blue Economy or All Blue. Having a coastal city with homegrown and inbound talent is creating new awareness of the power of the ocean and coastal living. Opportunities elevated have ranged from a climate and tourism perspective, and also as a driver of regional economic development. The Blue Economy is globally recognized and is defined by the World Bank as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystems.”
All Blue’s mission is to increase awareness of the opportunities for economic development with innovative businesses and entrepreneurs in such fields as marine robotics, sustainable fisheries, and marine biopharma. These new ventures will establish Southeast North Carolina as a national and global leader in the Blue Economy and lead to new technologies, processes, companies, and jobs being created right here in Wilmington.
The new talents and ideas that are will be attracted to Wilmington will augment a culture that is already steeped in innovation and giving. Of course, one example of this is the CIE’s mentor program that nurtures Wilmington’s entrepreneurial projects. These new perspectives and experiences can lead to transformational changes in our collective community.
The Alliance for the Blue Economy’s members come from a cross-section of the country including North Carolina. They are scientists, biologists, software engineers, marketing experts, and thought leaders in innovations and technology. They recognize that Wilmington’s access to the oceans is one the best on the East Coast and the unique eco-system of our waterways and barrier islands is a treasure trove for marine biologists, fishermen, tour operators, and many more who make their living from the ocean.
But let’s stop for a moment and note that Wilmington’s foundation for innovation and entrepreneurship was formed prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and was solidly built. Two Wilmington-based multi-billion-dollar companies went public on Nasdaq. PPD and nCino paved the way in Wilmington and there are more just like them. The spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and growing.
All Blue is tapping into this energy and creating awareness around the importance of the oceans and their health. The economic growth in Wilmington starts with the care and preservation of our waterways. Locals and transplants have come together to help grow Wilmington in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. All Blue spans the community and invites stakeholders to join us in establishing our region as a leader in the future of the Blue Economy.
Article contributed by Richard Keary, a CIE Mentor. Richard is the Principal/Founder of Global ETF Advisors LLC- an independent management consulting firm.
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