The right type of business or industry and its location are central to attracting workforce talent, customers and capital. So what are the drivers that attract businesses, residents and visitors to the Cape Fear region, and how do we preserve and improve them for the future?
The 2014 economic development report, Pathways to Prosperity, commissioned by New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington states that: “In the Wilmington region, the competitive strategic advantages include: a) coastal location, b) historic downtown, c) recreation diversity, d) a university, e) generally good weather, f) importance of the existent tourism/secondary home market, and f) existing diversity of local economy.”
A 2012 UNC Wilmington study provides additional insights into our region’s economy.(1) It compares the region's existing industries. It found that high-tech. clean industries have more positive economic benefits than low-tech, polluting industries. These benefits included significantly greater economic value-added commerce, indirect positive impacts on the economy and employment, positive impacts on non-economic social activities related to education and charities, and inducement for the attraction of other firms into the region, such as high-tech firms, service-based businesses, and financial sector enterprises.
The report concluded that the high concentration of clean industries in southeastern North Carolina clearly demonstrates the potential for building an economy on travel and leisure, or attracting industries that incorporate significant "quality of life" components in their location and expansion decisions. It found that the vast majority of such beneficial economic stimulus comes from the abundant, but fragile natural resources found in the region.
Tourism and visitors to the region represent a strong economic driver for the area. According to The U.S. Travel Association’s Economic Impact of Travel on North Carolina Counties, domestic tourism in New Hanover County generated an economic impact of $477.68 million in 2013. The county ranked eighth in travel impact among the 100 counties in North Carolina. More than 5,460 jobs in New Hanover County were directly attributable to travel and tourism, generating a $105.41 million payroll. State and local tax revenues from travel to New Hanover County amounted to $41.84 million.
Offering economic incentives to industries that preserve the region’s attributes is one way to attract them to the area. The Industrial Special Use Permit (SUP) is a highly effective land-use zoning tool that allows local leaders and the public an opportunity to fully vet potential industrial neighbors, and approve those that align with our shared regional vision and goals toward increased prosperity. A good industry can elevate New Hanover County’s brand value locally and nationally, resulting in an increase in short-term and long-term job opportunities. A harmful industry can potentially drive away future businesses, residents and visitors, and stall career and job growth. Now is the time to embrace those choices and tools in our toolbox, like the SUP, creating the economic future that perpetuates the lifestyle we cherish for our great community.
(1.) The Impact of Cement Manufacturing on Economic Growth in the Cape Fear Region
The CFEDC brings together industry, community leaders, and the public to foster collaboration, transparency, inspiration and alignment around a shared regional vision. To learn more about the Cape Fear Economic Development Council or become a member, go to www.capefearedc.org or call (910) 471-1616.
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