After 35 years of chamber of commerce management, including 22 years as President & CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, today I announced my retirement.
Jetsetter Magazine has released its list of Coolest Southern Towns, and Wilmington was ranked at #6.
The mission of Cape Fear Future - the flagship program of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce - is to further develop the region's knowledge-sector economy to promote economic development and ensure the prosperity of the region. The initiative aims to leverage existing assets to build a community where knowledge-sector workers would like to live.
The knowledge sector (entrepreneurs, scientists, tech workers, nurses, teachers, etc.) will continue to be the fuel for economic growth through their development of new businesses, business models, and technological innovation. Cape Fear Future will help the region keep stride with globalization and remain competitive with other cities vying for workers in high-growth industries.
Fortunately, the Wilmington area has inherent advantages due to its supreme quality of life and resources such as the beach and river, a thriving arts community and historic district, and more. But there is room for improvement, so CFF has created three task forces to focus on education (particularly science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM), promoting entrepreneurship, and spearheading projects to further enhance quality of life.
Recent projects have included advocating for more open space in downtown Wilmington and a signature park. Members of the CFF Quality of Life Task Force are currently working with the City, WDI, and others to revitalize and expand Riverfront Park. Land for a new park on the Cape Fear River, adjacent to the Wilmington Convention Center, has also been purchased by the City and is currently in the design phase.
CFF is also supporting programs that will enhance the region's competitiveness globally, particularly through entrepreneurship. CFF has provided significant funding to the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), which serves as a catalyst for entrepreneurial growth in Southeastern North Carolina. Through events, opportunities, research, education and building relationships, the CIE is building a large community of entrepreneurs. Twenty companies call the CIE home, and the organization works to align start ups with angel investors. The CIE has successfully helped create jobs, recruit companies and launch new businesses.
In 2015, Cape Fear Future will publish its first economic scorecard for the Wilmington region. This unbiased collection of key data will provide our regionís business, governmental, community and academic leaders with unbiased data to help focus a collective effort to address our challenges and highlight strengths.
The CFF Education Task Force is working to improve K-12 education and STEM offerings. One initiative has been the promotion of STEM programs by creating a website with a comprehensive list of after-school programs, contests, and activities that promote an interest in STEM. The project was completed through a partnership with the UNCW Watson School of Education. STEM Website
In 2014, CFF funded the STEM program Project Lead The Way at Trask Middle School. Students participated in the "Gateway To Technology" program that engages the natural curiosity and imagination of students, while introducing them to engineering, robotics, computer modeling, and energy, among other STEM-related subjects. CFF will continue funding for these students through the seventh and eighth grades. The kickoff year of the program was so successful that New Hanover County Schools is expanding it to additional schools.
These are only a few of the projects CFF is undertaking to help ensure our businesses have the workers they need and the region enjoys economic prosperity for decades to come.
Dr. Richard Florida's Creativity Action Team, Catalytix Inc., initially facilitated CFF and was responsible for creation of the blueprint for achieving its goals.
There are 4 main occupation groups that make up the Knowledge Sector. They can be remembered using the acronym TAPE:
The knowledge sector segment does not include the manufacturing or service work sectors. But many of the workers in these segments are knowledge workers, so the Cape Fear Future initiative will look at occupations as opposed to industry segments.
|% of Workforce||30.3%||46.1%||23.3%|
|% of Wages||48.9%||31.1%||19.9%|
|% of Workforce||24.9%||50.8%||24.2%|
|% of Wages||41.0%||36.0%||22.9%|
In its initial benchmarking in 2006, Catalytix used data compiled nationally from the "4-T's" to help define a region's rank in knowledge sector development: Technology and Innovation; Talent and Workforce; Tolerance and Diversity; and Territory Assets and Quality of Place.
In the Technology category, Wilmington ranked number 54 out of 331 U.S. regions (84%), which is above average.
For Talent, Wilmington dropped to the middle of the pack at 164 (50%) and has a very similar score for Tolerance and Diversity at 182 (45%).
Territory assets are not given a ranked score, as they are things unique to a region that knowledge sector workers may find attractive in enhancing their quality of life. However, Catalytix consultants have said Wilmington does exceptionally well in this area.
Wilmington's composite knowledge index ranked the area at 118 out of 331 regions, or 64%, giving the area a respectable rank, but with plenty of room for improvement.
For the data gathered by Catalytix to be truly significant, comparisons will be made against other cities. The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors compiled a list of 25 cities that were used as benchmarks. Cities were chosen for numerous reasons, including: similar size/makeup, location/proximity, areas known to have strong knowledge sector development, areas that are competitive with the Cape Fear area for attracting workers, etc.
A list of the benchmark cities and their base knowledge sector rankings compared to the Cape Fear area were compiled when CFF was initiated in 2006.Click here to view the original benchmarking data...
Cape Fear Future supports efforts that expand educational programs/resources that have the greatest impact on preparing our students with the knowledge and skills needed to meet our current and future workforce needs. This program compliments the efforts of numerous existing local and state groups, agencies, institutions, and service providers in developing and delivering a sustainable, well-trained, and competitive workforce.
Downtown Wilmington is a mix of history, artistry, and possibility. Its varied character makes it a vibrant urban hub for business, tourism, chic living and more. Recent additions like the construction of the Wilmington Convention Center and Cape Fear Community College Performing Arts Center are bringing additional amenities. CFF seeks to leverage these strengths and downtown's beautiful location along the riverfront, while infusing more creativity and culture. Our goal is to continue the revitalization of downtown into a thriving, exciting and appealing urban district that symbolizes our community's unique blend of past and present:
73% of businesses in our region have less than 10 employees and 75% of new jobs created in the US since 1992 are entrepreneurial. The UNCW Entrepreneurship Center is training and recruiting entrepreneurs to help create jobs, advance innovation, and increase the region's tax base.
Since 2010, CFF has experienced a number of successes through our initiatives:
Hal Kitchin, CFF Chairman
Connie Majure-Rhett, CCE
Wilmington Chamber of Commerce
President & CEO
Greater Wilmington Business Journal
Senior Vice President/Market President
Senior Vice President/Community Banking
Principal (Quality of Life initiative leader)
New Hanover Regional Medical Center
Chief Operating Officer (CFF Education initiative leader)
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