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Programs Aim To Build Workforce

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jan 8, 2021
A 24-page guide highlights the region's business incubators. (Photo c/o North Carolina's Southeast)
The construction and IT sectors are the focus of new collab­oratives forming this year to address the area’s workforce develop­ment needs.
The initiatives stem from the Cape Fear Talent survey, which was released by the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce and Cape Fear Col­lective in March, said Meaghan Lewis, director of programs at Cape Fear Col­lective.
Cape Fear Collective and Wilmington chamber worked with more than 50 regional partners and RTI International to survey regional employers to gain an understanding of what they need, including hard-to-fill job functions and skills, Lewis said.
The results of the survey were an­nounced in September. Officials are forming Talent Pipeline Management collaboratives that target certain sectors and specifically address the wants expressed in the nearly 500 responses the survey garnered from businesses across the region.
“It’s a group of employers coming together, competitors in the room with one another, all agreeing to leave their swords at the door and work collaboratively on their talent needs, and how are they going to structure the talent pipelines to fill those critical job functions,” Lewis said.
The new collaboratives will bring together employers in specific sec­tors to discuss the current hiring and training needs to meet industry demands now and in the future, said Wilmington chamber president and CEO Natalie English.
The chamber recently received a $10,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation to perform the work, English said.
The first two collaboratives will pull together the public and private sectors to form a construction indus­try collaborative and another group­ing in information technology to help come up with initiatives, she said.
Major businesses, such as Wilm­ington-based Live Oak Bank on the technology side, and Monteith Con­struction Corp. on the construction side, are participating in this initia­tive, Lewis said.
The construction industry was identified in the survey with the low­est confidence in sourcing its talent locally, Lewis said. So, organizers are starting with this sector and already have about two dozen construction industry employers signed on to start work.
Hosted by Carolinas AGC, Cape Fear Collective and chamber offi­cials plan to collect additional data about Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other safety training needs in the foreman and superintendent fields, Lewis said.
Parallel to that work, the IT collaborative is forming, Lewis said, adding that there is an increasing need for coders in the area.
“Going back to the Cape Fear Talent [survey], the IT and software industry was one of the highest-rated as far as anticipated growth over the next three years, adding some 2,200 new jobs,” Lewis said.
The chamber and Cape Fear Collective have brought Cape Fear Community College and businesses together to dig into greater detail about the future workforce needs of the field, with more developments to come, Lewis said.
The number of future collabora­tives based on the survey, however, are still evolving for the year and will require more fundraising to work on other programs outside of IT and construction, English said. Officials aim to target a logistics sector collab­orative next, the timing of which is still being ironed out.
“Talent and workforce challenges are at the top of the list when busi­ness owners are asked, ‘What’s get­ting in the way of your growth?’ It’s access to talent,” English said. “And so, it is a priority of the chamber. It’s been in our strategic plan since 2017. It’s going to take some of our resources, but we know it’s where we need to spend some of our time.”

Guide highlights area business incubators

A new 24-page guide of South­eastern North Carolina’s business incubators is intended to help help local economic developers and part­ners support small companies in the region.
North Carolina’s Southeast has released the Small Business and Industrial Incubator Guide, which features details of 13 entrepreneur­ial and industrial incubators in the organization’s 18-county region, ac­cording to a news release. The guide includes resources in New Hanover and Brunswick counties.
The guide includes information such as details about each of the 13 spaces, offerings and rental rates, along with sources of funding for each location. The publication states that communities across the state’s Southeastern region leverage various resources to establish these incuba­tors to address challenges and oppor­tunities unique to their areas.
The guide was developed by North Carolina’s Southeast with financial support from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
“Given the diversity of our region, there are numerous different models, missions and strategies economic developers can adopt in creating a successful incubator,” Steve Yost, president of North Carolina’s South­east, said in the release. “The guide catalogues all our region’s incubator resources in a single document that supports the development of new incubators and fosters collaboration among existing ones.”
The guide includes details on incu­bator partners and funding sources.
One of those resources includes Brunswick County’s Business and Industry Incubator, which was developed by Brunswick Communi­ty College with assistance from the county government, U.S. EDA and the Golden LEAF Foundation.
The incubator welcomed its first tenants to the 5,000-square-foot facil­ity in 2016, according to the release.
“All successful businesses had a beginning,” said Bill Early, executive director of Brunswick Business and Industry Development. “An incuba­tor is paramount in helping to start and grow new businesses that will be the future of our local economies.”
The publication also highlights the University of North Carolina Wilm­ington’s 20,000 square-foot Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which according to the guide, rents out 15 private offices to local busi­nesses on a month-to-month basis with monthly rents ranging from $300 to $500 based on size. The guide also highlights MARBIONC and the UNCW Center for Marine Science.
Officials said the publication will help startups and small businesses find the resources to start and grow.
The guide is part of a broader effort to update Southeastern North Carolina’s overall economic develop­ment strategy, officials said.
A $148,000 grant from the U.S. EDA, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is also helping reassess the region’s target sectors, inventory industrial real estate, upgrade the North Carolina’s Southeast website and boost regional marketing. The initiative was launched last year.
The Small Business and Industrial Incubator Guide can be found on the website for North Carolina’s South­east,
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