Staff photo by Joshua Curry
Deborah Mosca, the CEO of Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation, was the keynote speaker for the Economic Outlook Conference on economic vitality for Southeastern North Carolina, hosted by the University of North Carolina Wilmington on Tuesday, Oct. 9
Economists at the 2012 University of North Carolina Wilmington Economic Outlook Conference on Oct. 9. were mostly critical of recent economic growth.
Executive in residence at the Cameron School of Business, Dr. Thomas Simpson, described recent economic growth on the national level as paltry, citing angst over job loss and the current job market as reasons for the reluctance of households to spend money. Businesses, Simpson said, were also showing restraint in their spending, which he attributed in part to concern over regulations, taxes and public policy.
In contrast, banks were more willing to make consumer loans than in previous years and Simpson’s beliefs that the national housing market was making a slow recovery were echoed by speakers throughout the conference.
“To say that the [state and local] recovery... has been weak, is an understatement,” said Dr. Woody Hall, senior economist at the Swain Center of Business and Economic Services, and professor of economics at UNCW during his local outlook presentation.
Hall went on to display graphs showing that the unemployment rate in North Carolina and Wilmington were higher than the national average, but pointed to slight improvements in retail, hotel room occupancy taxes and the local housing market.
“Economical recovery in the United States depends on innovation,” said Dan Baden, director of the marine sciences program at UNCW and panelist on the conference’s biotechnology panel. Baden was quoting Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Keynote speaker Deborah Mosca, Ph.D and the chief executive officer of the new Marine Bio-Technologies Center of Innovation, said she aims to make the new center self-sustaining and a go-to center for new technologies. She emphasized the importance of communication and collaboration among federal, regional, academic and investment agencies in the development of new technologies that could promote economic growth.
The development of new pharmaceuticals was a recurring topic between Mosca and the biotechnology panel that followed her speech. Mosca described marine microbes as the new bull market for drugs, pointing to the fact that 50 to 75 percent of all drugs on the market come from natural products, and the ocean still remains vastly unexplored.
The MBCOI is located in UNCW’s CREST research park, located off of Masonboro Loop Road. The CREST research park is one of the most advanced biotechnology research facilities on the East Coast. When the Marine Biotechnology in North Carolina (MARBIONC) building, the park’s newest addition, is complete in early 2013, it will provide more than 68,000 square feet of lab space. Much of the lab space will be leased to cultivate new start-up companies and bring biotechnology jobs to Wilmington.
The real estate panel, populated by Teresa Huffmon of Coldwell Banker Commercial, Chris Livengood of Intracoastal Realty, and Haywood Newkirk of Clontz Newkirk Real Estate Group, forecast slow but steady improvement in both the commercial and residential market.
“On a 10 to 12 year basis, we’re in good shape,” Newkirk said.