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Economic Development
Jan 4, 2023

Why Participate in an InterCity Leadership Visit?

Sponsored Content provided by Natalie English - President & CEO, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce

It is a best practice for chamber of commerce and economic development leaders to plan and host intercity visit trips to peer cities to learn from other communities' successes and challenges and explore new ideas for partnerships and opportunities for economic development. These trips can provide valuable insights and information that can help to inform the decisions and strategies of local businesses and organizations. Additionally, these trips strengthen relationships and build connections between attendees, which can benefit economic growth and collaboration.

Business, government, education, and other community leaders typically attend intercity visits organized by a chamber of commerce. The purpose of the trip is to learn from the experiences and insights of others, so the attendees are typically individuals who represent a variety of industries and those who have a stake in the economic development and success of their community.

Intercity visit trips organized by a chamber of commerce can take place in any city or region where the chamber is interested in learning from or exploring potential partnerships. These trips can be local, regional, national, or even international, depending on the goals and focus of the chamber and the specific communities they are interested in. The trip's location is usually chosen based on factors such as the size and demographics of the community, the industries and businesses present, and the specific areas of interest or focus for the chamber.

This year, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce board chair Stephanie Lanier of Intracoastal Realty/Lanier Property Group will be hosting a group of almost 50 local leaders in Fort Lauderdale, FL. 

While Fort Lauderdale is certainly a lot like the Wilmington region from an economic and tourism perspective, we have the added benefit of having a new low-cost direct flight from ILM to Fort Lauderdale on Avelo Airlines to connect our communities. The group will test out that direct flight on our return trip Friday afternoon. At the moment, the Avelo Airlines flight leaves Fort Lauderdale at 12:15 pm and arrives at ILM at 2:20 pm. That flight is repeated on Monday, making the Fort Lauderdale area an easy weekend trip! We won't be going for the weekend, however, because this is a work trip, and there is a lot we can learn from leaders in Fort Lauderdale. 

Given Fort Lauderdale's coastal location, I expect we'll see a number of bridges on our travels. Have I mentioned the need for a replacement for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge recently?

On day one, we will be boarding an American Airlines flight in ILM and traveling through CLT before arriving at FLL at 12:15 pm. Upon arrival, Broward County Mayor Lamar Fisher will welcome us to his community, and we will begin our programming focused on critical transportation infrastructure. Our first stop is lunch on the Brightline while we travel to Miami. Brightline is the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger railroad in the United States. It connects South and Central Florida and reaches speeds up to 125 miles an hour. Wouldn't it be amazing if Brightline leaders became interested in investing in North Carolina? Maybe a passenger train between Wilmington and Raleigh or Charlotte is in our future.

Day Two's agenda provides our group with an opportunity for a bit of R&D (known as rip-off & duplicate in chamber of commerce lingo). We will hear from economic development, community branding, small business, and entrepreneurial program leaders. We will spend time on the local college and university campuses and learn about innovative programs they've implemented to educate and develop the current and future workforce. We will also tour innovation hubs and learn about programs to attract new businesses and grow existing ones.

At some point during Day Two, our tourism and airport partners in attendance will slip away to host the local travel media representatives. To be truly successful, the Avelo flight must flourish with travelers in both directions. I'm already hearing about residents in our region taking the flight down for long weekends in Florida. The goal of the media event is to make sure some of their citizens spend some money in our region too!

On Day Three, the group will devote some time to learn about coastal resiliency efforts in the Fort Lauderdale area. It will be a shorter day as we return to FLL for the return flight to ILM on Avelo Airlines.

In sum, the trip will be a whirlwind 48 hours on the ground in Fort Lauderdale. Attendees will be overwhelmed with information and ideas. We may return with some small notions of things we should consider implementing, and we may also return having learned how not to do something.  

At the end of the trip, we expect to have developed stronger relationships between our business leaders, government, and education partners thanks to the limited interruptions from everyday business happening at home in our offices and typical schedules. With greater understanding and appreciation of one another, we can better work together, and the whole community can benefit.

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