Most of us are quite familiar with the ongoing discussion about our area’s need for a unified vision for economic development. Rob Kaiser, co-owner and publisher of Greater Wilmington Business Journal, recently wrote an opinion piece on the topic; and it was the primary focus of the Power Breakfast on March 27th. It’s an important subject that’s been discussed for years but without any real consensus among the business community. So, I thought I would use this wonderful forum to throw in my two cents.
I recently attended a meeting at the Marbionic building at UNCW’s CREST Research Park. At the conclusion of the meeting, Dr. Dan Baden, Director of the Center for Marine Science, took some of us on a tour of the Research Park.
Click this link for details about the Research Park: http://www.uncw.edu/CREST/
I could go on and on about the amazing facility, but in my opinion, the real beauty of the Marbionic building is that it serves as a symbol of the economic development potential in our community. I view its role as a birthplace of local knowledge-based jobs with the assistance of one of our greatest community assets, UNCW. Research, led by faculty, conducted with the help of bright students, is transferred and developed into private sector companies that hire those bright students and make way for the next generation to develop new technologies that create new companies; and then the cycle repeats again and again.
Ever heard of the RTP? The Research Triangle Park has only been around since the 50s and that equates to less than two generations of workers. I have read about the history of the RTP and I believe it to be one of the best examples of private-public partnerships in U.S. history. The incredible success of the RTP can be seen and measured by:
• Jobs created
• Companies formed
• Intellectual achievements
• Tax base increases
• Per capita income growth
• And many other impactful statistics
Of course, the RTP did not become successful overnight.
So that leads me back to my experience at the Marbionic building. It is a public-private enterprise with the intent of performing translational research. Translational research is defined as research that helps to make findings from science useful for practical applications that enhance human health and well-being. Simply put, using public resources (UNCW faculty and operations) to develop scientific outcomes that can be used by the private sector to profitably deliver something of value to the human race. Furthermore, the use of the research completed by UNCW attracts private sector investors to take this research to market, creating companies and jobs along the way.
Maybe we aren’t the RTP but we have the foundation to create something comparable, right here, in our little myrtle grove.
I am not sure who to credit with the original idea but I applaud Dr. Baden’s monumental efforts in bringing the Marbionic building to life. The ability to see beyond what is tangible and into what is possible is a skill that few people possess. It’s the essence of entrepreneurship and Dr. Baden, a public employee and an entrepreneur, has mastered it.
While we spend our efforts and time debating what our local brand should be and the purpose of each individual economic development group, Dr. Baden, along with many other people and groups, has championed the development of a $30,000,000 facility that is an incubator for translational research and job creation. 15 years in the making, we just may have what could be the only economic development engine we need. I don’t want to limit other options and opportunities, but I want to point out that there is real potential here.
CREST Park and the Marbionic building have a great brand and are unique to our community. We can spend countless more hours debating our economic development vision and hoping we come up with the perfect plan. Or, we could take the time to learn about one of the greatest assets we already have, and tell the story to everyone that will listen. Once we maximize the potential and capacity of CREST Park, we can move on to the next great idea. But if you truly care about economic development in this community, I strongly recommend that you invest some time learning about and understanding the potential that is already waiting to be tapped.
Jason Wheeler is currently the CEO and a Wealth Consultant at Pathfinder Wealth Consulting. Pathfinder specializes in comprehensive financial, estate and tax planning services, investment management, and risk management (insurance) for business owners and successful executives. Jason Wheeler offers securities and advisory services through Commonwealth Financial Network®. Member FINRA, SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser. To learn more about Pathfinder Wealth Consulting, visit www.pathfinderwc.com. Jason can be reached at [email protected] or 910-793-0616.
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