Determining the type of businesses the Brand Identity Leadership Team would be targeting in its economic development campaign was the primary goal for the group’s meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
Spearheaded by the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the BILT initiative was formed to draw more businesses to southeastern North Carolina. At Wednesday’s meeting those businesses to be targeted were tentatively identified as small to medium-sized businesses with primarily knowledge-based jobs.
Roger Johnson, City of Wilmington special assistant to the city manager for economic development, said the regional branding survey administered by UNCW showed that the community believes quality of life is the primary asset attracting outside businesses to the area.
With that idea in mind, UNCW marketing department chair Dr. Thomas Porter listed the top things both manufacturing firms and smaller businesses look for when considering moving to a new market. Porter said large manufacturing firms look for things like highway accessibility, labor costs and availability of skilled laborers whereas smaller businesses look for sites and buildings, access to suppliers and markets and availability of a knowledge-based workforce. Quality of life was only on the list of assets medium to small businesses look for.
“Our goal is not to identify what Wilmington is but we are trying to identify what we have here to create a brand promise, promote it and attract people to that,” said BILT member and Wells Fargo banker Alfred White. “With the larger companies [quality of life] is going to be one of the last things that gets that ink on the dotted line but with those small to medium businesses it is going to be one of the first things.”
Opinion Lab general counsel and BILT member Kristen Shaheen mentioned the importance of knowing what other areas in North Carolina are doing to attract those in the technology industry, particularly in the western part of the state.
“There are large technology companies setting up shop in the western part of the state and they are getting cheap labor and cheap land so it may be to our benefit to figure out what is incentivizing them because in my mind it is not as an attractive of an area as this is,” Shaheen said.
Echoing that sentiment, Blockade Runner Beach Resort general manager Nicolas Montoya also expressed a desire for the BILT to responsibly plan for the growth it is working to achieve.
“Coming from Wrightsville Beach … I believe it is extremely important that we have to be responsible in our economic growth and then be equally responsible with our branding,” Montoya said. “We don’t want to draw people here and then not have the support in place.”
Porter said he believed that the infrastructural and community support would be there to handle the growth if the BILT achieves its goals.
Before the BILT commits to which group of businesses it wants to target, PPD associate director of corporate communications and public affairs Ned Glascock said he would like to wait on the results of the economic study commissioned by New Hanover County in 2013.
Roger Johnson said he did not have an update on exactly when that study would be completed but other members of the BILT expressed a desire to wait on the county study as well.
The next meeting of the BILT is scheduled for Wednesday, March 12.