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Leaders Announce Three-county Marketing Effort To Bring Jobs

By Cece Nunn, posted Jan 13, 2015
Local economic development and government leaders in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties are working with a larger organization on combined marketing efforts to bring new jobs to the region, according to a news release Tuesday.
The Wilmington Regional Marketing Initiative, for the area considered a micro-region within Southeastern North Carolina, “will enhance the promotional work and global corporate outreach efforts of the Brunswick County Economic Development Commission and Wilmington Business Development, a membership-driven organization that oversees economic development for the City of Wilmington and New Hanover and Pender counties,” said the release from The Southeastern Partnership, the organization that local officials are working with on the initiative.
Tuesday’s news release served as a formal announcement of the initiative, which has been in the works since September, said Steve Yost, president of The Southeastern Partnership, a regional economic development organization that represents 14 counties.
Together, the three counties can present “a more compelling story” for the Wilmington area, the release said. The three economic development organizations can also leverage marketing resources by sharing costs of printed promotional materials, consultant missions, trade show participation and other tools of the trade.
“Being seen at the global level is expensive, and it’s only the cities like Atlanta and Charlotte that can afford to market internationally on their own,” said Scott Satterfield, CEO of WBD, in the news release. “Regional collaboration allows us to take our marketing up a notch in a way that is both efficient and effective.”
Specific plans for the initiative include setting up a micro-region booth at a craft brewery conference and trade show in April, welcoming site selection consultants to a familiarization (or “FAM”) tour in May and embarking on an industry recruiting mission in May or June.
According to the release, a variety of industries “should find the marketing message compelling. Value-added food and beverage processors – including craft breweries – are among the region’s targets. So, too, are companies in aerospace and aviation manufacturing, assembly and maintenance.”
Precision manufacturing, metal fabrication technology, marine sciences and industrial biotechnology are also on the list of industries that the three organizations want to reach out to, the release said.
“Ideally, we want to highlight the unique but complementary assets that make the Wilmington region stand out, not just as a southeastern North Carolina destination, but an international destination,” said Jim Bradshaw, director of the BCEDC, in the announcement. “By marketing ourselves as a package, we can be both bolder in our global presence and more focused in our sector targeting.”
Yost said WBD, BCEDC and The Southeastern Partnership plan to use existing dollars to fund their collaborative efforts through the end of the fiscal year.
“Once we get past this fiscal year, we’ll have to do some additional budget planning and see what resources will be required to continue to move this initiative forward,” Yost said.
He said as leaders have made plans for the initiative, they’ve been using a three-year timetable. In June, New Hanover County officials increased funding to WBD by $50,000 per year for three years, which means the organization will get a little more than $189,000 from the county during this fiscal year. The county also allocated $20,000 for The Southeastern Partnership.

Yost said the group has outlined several ways to measure the initiative's performance and productivity.
The formation of a united marketing effort for New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties addresses one of the suggested tasks outlined in a report the county commissioned by Atlanta-based consulting firm Garner Economics. In a meeting last year, city and county officials informally chose the creation of a three-county marketing alliance as one of six priorities among the recommendations in the Garner report.
The Wilmington Regional Marketing Initiative accomplishes that goal, said Jonathan Barfield, chairman of the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners.
“With any employer, you’re going to pull people from one or two counties away working at a GE or a New Hanover Regional Medical Center or a Corning or a PPD. Jobs are definitely regional, and our approach has to be regional” to bring jobs to the area, Barfield said Tuesday.
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