Monday, December 12, 2011

Cape Fear Future releases new tri-county education brochure

In the spring of 2011, representatives from Cape Fear Future and the Chamber Foundation (both initiatives of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce) joined forces to assist the improvement of K-12 schools by raising awareness and support through marketing.

To our knowledge, no entities in the tri-county region (New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender Counties) have produced a comprehensive regional annual report on our schools. The team felt strongly we should have documentation for distribution for both prospective and community residents/businesses. Therefore, the team connected with several school representatives and combed through local, state, and national data in an effort to consolidate school performance, statistics, and special programs.

The result of this effort is an up-to-date profile with relevant statistical information to be provided to corporate prospects, commercial and residential realtors and anyone looking at our school systems. Our first goal was to create a printed brochure, and the second is to create and expand educational materials on the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce website.

We are excited to announce the regional education brochure is complete! The team is currently seeking feedback on the content of the brochure and also entities that should receive the mailing for mass distribution in early 2012. Additional resources and statistics not included in the printed brochure will be provided on the new Wilmington Chamber of Commerce website when it is launched in February of 2012.

Please click on the link below to check out our new brochure:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Supporters launch Wilmington-area arts council

"It's so nice," said painter Virginia Wright-Frierson, "to finally have something to celebrate."

She, along with more than 100 other artists, musicians, local officials and others, were on hand Wednesday night at the Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the launch of the Wilmington area's new arts council.

Link to full StarNews article below:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

NC Science Festival

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of meeting Jonathan Frederick, Director of the NC Science Festival, an initiative of the UNC Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. This celebration, from April 13th-29th, is the first statewide science festival in the nation. Jonathan and his team are engaging participants across the state to create, host, sponsor, etc. events.

Their goal is to make April be known as the “science month” in North Carolina. The Festival includes both traditional and funky events, from an open house to a kitchen chemistry event in a local restaurant. Companies and organizations can submit programs that are already going on, or they can create a new program for the week of the Festival. Their long-term vision for the Festival is to have 1 million people participating each year at events all over the state.

Based on the feedback from 2010 Event hosts, there are a number of improvements from last year. For example:

• Individual webpage url for your event.
• Improved calendar functionality allows people to find your event that much easier.
• Option to upload your own event photo or logo.
• Customizable event flyer available.
• News media release template available to promote your individual event.

For the 2010 Final Report, future goals, and additional details on the festival, please visit:

Not only is this a wonderful opportunity to showcase our region’s (among other municipalities across the state) many science related activities, but it also gives our area great exposure in terms of economic development as the activities take place right here at home, while still connecting us to the state at large.

If you have any resources/programs/contacts in mind, I urge you to pass them on to myself or the NC Science Festival organizers. I look forward to your participation!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Entrepreneurs show their stuff

Students, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and potential investors all gathered Tuesday at the New Hanover County Executive Development Center, for another round of the UNCW Entrepreneurship Center’s highly anticipated Rocket Pitch Event. Five entrepreneurs showcased their novel products, ideas and business models in the hopes of generating investment and community/business support.

For the full story, please visit the Greater Wilmington Business Journal's article:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Goings-On About Wilmington

I always love receiving a fresh publication of The New Yorker. I remember sitting with my sister when we were children flipping through my father’s magazines. We would cuddle up for hours, carefully examining those famous New Yorker covers and studying every cartoon, none of which I ever understood. My sister (beyond her years in both maturity and brains) would begin to giggle, as the meaning, which completely eluded me, would unhinge her. I would then roll over in stitches so she would think I actually understood the punchline.

Today, aside from the cartoons (which, to me, are now only occasionally a succession of non sequiturs) I find the real highlight of my New Yorker experience is always on page six: “Goings On About Town”, where theatre, nightlife, art, movies, and books galore are highlighted each week. I can almost imagine being in the midst of the great city, watching young bohemians as they make their way through the Meat Packing District; running to some avant-garde theatre production on W. 47th Street; sipping a gin martini with a twist at a swanky new bar exploding with the sound of a new indie underground band...but then, this is only glossy paper and print…a magazine...

While I do enjoy this indulgence, there really is no need for me to surf the pages written about the boroughs of NYC, because I reside in my beloved Wilmington…and I’m pleased as punch. The fact is, our region’s quality of life is unparalleled…from a Downtown Riverfront peppered with historical homes and trendy boutiques to the picturesque beaches with coastal cottages and bros catching waves. We truly have it made. And it’s the people here that make it. There is a small town feel, but a big town heart—cultural happenings abound. We too have a page six, and our goings-on are most certainly magazine worthy.

There is always a new restaurant opening, a new entrepreneurial venture, a new community group, or a new art exhibit cropping up. This is what I love about my work with Cape Fear Future…I am afforded the luxury of being in the midst of it all—from education and entrepreneurship to quality of life, there is always something new to discover and explore here in Wilmington.

There is a deep passion in our community for the improvement/availability of even more goings-on, a direct byproduct of economic and community development. With this passion can come community fragmentation, which is not uncommon when it comes to economic development, especially when competing in a global marketplace and depressed economy. Many cities across the nation clumsily falter as they strive to determine a focus and direction for sustainable job growth and the expansion of arts and cultural amenities. Our region is not immune to such fragmentation…we are still finding our footing.

While not always in agreement over those small and large treasures we need to emphasize or those aspects of Wilmington we need to improve, our town is rich in forward thinkers and numerous groups, who work effortlessly to improve both quality of life and business development. They are a gift to Wilmington and to each other because of the discussions they generate. They come together to think, to bounce ideas off one another, to extrapolate and motivate through lively, intellectual, progressive conversations. They move Wilmington, forward into what CFF and others imagine for us all.

As such, part of CFF’s role is to bring groups together, shape what economic and community development mean for our region, and help tell the story of our Port City.

The last page of each New Yorker features a weekly "Cartoon Caption Contest" with captionless cartoons. Captions are submitted by readers, three are chosen as finalists, and readers then vote on the winner. Wouldn’t it be nice if regional transformation was that easy?

Obviously, the evolution of our business and community sectors is no laughing matter. But, similar to these cartoons, the future of Wilmington and the direction of economic development is an incomplete canvas, awaiting the brush strokes of the community’s vision.

To that point, we must be more than just a vision…we must execute tenacity and continue to set the bar for great cities.

Monday, September 12, 2011

New Hanover County Schools Transition Fair

On October 26, 2011, the New Hanover County Schools Transition Advisory Team will sponsor a Transition Fair entitled, “WHATS NEXT IN YOUR LIFE”. This fair is for any student enrolled in grades 10-12 that is receiving some kind of special support services at school.

The goals of this event are to:

•Provide our students with entry level employment information about opportunities in the greater Wilmington area.
•Provide our students with Post-Secondary educational information and regional options.
•Provide our students with an opportunity to interact and ask questions of area service providers.

The WHATS NEXT IN YOUR LIFE, transition fair will begin promptly at 9:30 AM in the Dale K. Spencer Building and will conclude at 7:30 PM with a break from 2:30PM- 5:30 PM. The team anticipates that approximately 500 students will be in attendance.

If you would be interested in setting up a booth at the Dale K. Spencer building for the purpose of providing information to our students and answering questions about your business, please contact Betsy Stanwood by September 29th, 2011: email at or call at 910.254.4466.

Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

We are pleased to announce a new partnership between the UNCW Watson School of Education and Cape Fear Future to promote the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) for K-12 students.

Together, WSE and CFF have developed a website of STEM programs offered in the region. This resource provides a listing of camps, field trips, after-school programs, contests, learning resources, and places to visit for STEM-related activities. We hope the STEM Resource will help facilitate teacher/parent access to STEM programs and resources, and increase student participation in STEM programs.

Please visit the new site at:

We hope you will find the STEM Resource helpful, and help us share the link with teachers and parents in our region!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

UNCW Entrepreneurship Center Presents: 2011 Economic Outlook Conference

It's that time of year again! The UNCW Entrepreneurship Center is hosting their annual Economic Outlook Conference on October 11, 2011. As the theme will be focused on global trade and regional growth in Southeastern NC, this will be an event you won’t want to miss!

More details coming soon…

For more info on the EC, check out:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cucalorus Film Festival Calls for Volunteers

The infamous Cucalorus Film Festival returns for its 17th year!

The Cucalorus team needs dedicated volunteers to join in the fun! The initial volunteer meeting will be an open house held at Jengo's Playhouse August 25th from 3-7pm. Volunteers are needed for screening, box office and technical departments.

For more information, please visit the volunteer open house facebook page at:

If you would like more information on events, involvement, membership, sponsorships, and more visit:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Successful Education Program May Be Cancelled Due to State Funding Cuts

"Making my way from a trailer park to Yale could not have been possible without Summer Ventures," stated Garry Reeder, a participant in a previous UNCW Summer Ventures program. One couldn’t ask for a more glowing endorsement for a program, right? But now that program is in jeopardy of being cancelled.

The 25th Annual Summer Ventures 2011 at UNCW got underway Monday, June 27th and will wrap up Saturday, July 23, possibly for the last time due to state budget cuts. UNCW is one of five NC universities to host Summer Ventures in Science and Mathematics (SVSM) Institutes administered by the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM). SVSM is a cost-free, state-funded program for academically talented students who may pursue careers based in science and mathematics.

The 4-week course of intensive study is led by university faculty and master high school teachers. The program brings rising juniors and seniors together in residential settings for four weeks of intensive study with courses designed to provide experience in scientific inquiry and mathematical problem solving. As a merit-based program, Summer Ventures is free to participating students.

"I still count that summer at UNCW as one of the most important experiences of my life,” said Robert Leandro, another UNCW SVSM participant. “Studying marine biology at SVSM opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me."

Despite this long track record of success, it's likely that 2011 will be the last year of Summer Ventures at UNCW - unless we can find a way to save it! Cape Fear Future encourages you to spread the importance of this program as it encourages and rewards high performing students while simultaneously preparing them in workforce development.

As a program serving "the best and the brightest", Summer Ventures is an investment in North Carolina's future. It's a program that should be showcased as a model of success and expanded, not eliminated. I hope you'll join our efforts to save Summer Ventures by sharing this information with others or by contacting Karen Shafer, Director, UNCW Science and Mathematics Education Center at 910-962-3168 (email: or Dr. Gabriel Lugo, Summer Ventures' Faculty Coordinator at 910-962-3246 (email: to see how you can help.

Friday, June 3, 2011

UNCW Entrepreneurship Center Hosts ENOV8T 2011

Jonathan Rowe, director of the UNCW Entrepreneurship Center and Fran Scarlett, regional director of the UNCW Small Business & Technology Development Center will act as program directors for this year's ENOV8T. High school students are encouraged to attend this exciting event to learn more about entrepreneurship, leadership, team building skills, and starting a new business.

For additonal information and registration, see the UNCW Entrepreneurship Center Website:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Editorial - A new push could make Riverfront Park a star attraction

Wilmington's Riverwalk is one of the most relaxing ways to while away a lazy afternoon downtown. Now it's time to spruce up Riverfront Park. And thanks to the interest of a community group and a languishing federal grant, that may happen soon.

For full StarNews article see link below:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Council Approves Grant and Riverfront Gets Green

On Tuesday, May 17, Wilmington City Council unanimously passed a Resolution of Endorsement and an Ordinance for Appropriating Funds for a Housing and Urban Development EDI (Economic Development Initiatives) Park Grant. These funds were awarded in 2007 with the intent that it be used for the development of a park in the parking lot adjacent to Thalian Hall. Over time this plan was abandoned and the funds were never re-designated. A new park project was needed…but years later, nothing had taken the place of the original plan.

Here’s the catch. If the funds aren’t used by December 31, 2011, the City loses the grant which amounts to $247,500. With the deadline looming, CFF Leaders contacted the City of Wilmington to inquire how those funds were being used and what we could do to push a proposal forward.

The Downtown Task Force, including Cape Fear Future, Wilmington Downtown Inc, City staff, and the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce came together to discuss the grant and eventually proposed a conceptual three phase plan for expanding and enhancing the riverfront park at the intersection of Market and Water Streets. The first phase would include the redevelopment of the City of Wilmington’s riverfront sub parcels extending from the Visitor Center kiosk to the northern boundary of the current Riverfront Park. If renovated with a unique and environmentally sensitive design, this area could serve as an inviting open space conducive to an array of events for public enjoyment.

The second phase proposes the renewal of the twenty-year license agreement between the U.S. Coast Guard and the City of Wilmington. The third and final phase includes the Wilmington Hilton’s southern parking lot, which could be exchanged for the Water Street Parking Deck across the street.

With regards to the grant, a second catch cropped up…only 20% of the $247,500 grant ($49,500) can be used for the required environmental assessment and park design. As such, it was recommended the initial environmental and park design focus on Phase I, and if additional funds remain following the assessment and design of Phase I, they be focused on the design of Phases II and III.

Ideally, all three phases will be included. 3.5 acres of riverfront park space will leverage economic development by being a destination park that emphasizes the cultural history of downtown Wilmington. It will also increase downtown residential density by serving as an active open space for live performances, family activities, and community events. The park will also serve as a unique facility for public events due to its proximity to local and state government administrative offices, the New Hanover County Courthouse, the river, and any proposed mixed use private development of the Water Street Deck.

I’ve mentioned it before: studies overwhelmingly show that parks act as incredible economic drivers. Real estate values, property taxes, and residential development increase; there is a greater opportunity for business attraction and retention; and the rate of tourism and degree of recreation is augmented. Finally, parks and outdoor green space stimulate the creative economy as creative/knowledge workers choose a place to live first before a job. Research shows that these higher wage earners highly value parks, open space, and cultural arts. If we improve the quality of life in this community, we are better positioned to attract and retain knowledge workers, which in turn generate investment back into the local community and spurs economic growth.

Finally, and most importantly, there is tremendous support from the local citizenship for a public park. In May 2006, the residents of Wilmington and New Hanover County passed a $35.5 million bond referendum to expand parks, green space and cultural facilities throughout the Cape Fear region.

Tip of the hat to Council and the Downtown Task Force who worked long and hard to push this through. Now let’s go get our park.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Cape Fear Economic Development Council hosts Congress for New Urbanism President/CEO John Norquist

John Norquist, President/CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism, will appear in Wilmington May 19-20, sponsored by the Cape Fear Economic Development Council. Norquist’s visit is part of the CFEDC’s effort to advance the goal of place-making as an economic development tool.

Norquist’s visit follows author’s Richard Florida’s recent visit to the Port City. While here, Florida outlined The New Economy principles that nurture The “Creative Class,” requiring a high performance education system, a robust cultural environment and beautiful, healthy and functional places to live, work and play. A former Wisconsin state legislator and the former mayor of Milwaukee, Norquist will work with the CFEDC to help translate the Creative Class vision into tangible steps for transforming the regional economy through the power of place.

To register please visit:

For more information and/or sponsorship opporunities please contact:
Elise Rocks
CFEDC Board Chair
910) 620.9224

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Safety First. Then Teamwork: New Hanover County ABC Board Approves Cooperative Agreement to Strengthen Public Safety in the Port City

Last week, the New Hanover County Alcoholic Beverage Control Board announced they will be training two local Wilmington police officers in ABC law enforcement. The vibrant downtown nightlife has prompted local officials and community members to seek alternative strategies in addressing public safety, especially as summer approaches and alcohol-related offenses increase.

Officers receiving ABC training will be allowed to enter bars whereas before they were not permitted inside unless invited. While there are a considerable number of incidences reported outside the bars and nightclubs, many of the altercations begin before anyone exits. By granting police access in bars, it is likely they will be able to cut down on underage drinking and alcohol-induced altercations.

Cape Fear Future has organized and participated in discussions on this issue since the fall of 2010. CFF representatives have met with several downtown groups, business leaders, community members, police officers, city officials, and state representatives. One of the biggest issues at the forefront of CFF discussions are constrained county and city budgets; but altering budget allocations at a time when all public services are suffering is a difficult task. Creative approaches using already available resources is a more viable option.

CFF has combed through countless crime statistics that overwhelmingly show the crime per capita is highest downtown. Interestingly enough, WPD data shows that for 20 to 21 hours of every day, there is actually very little violent crime. The vibrant downtown that many know and love is usually a safe place for all to enjoy. However, downtown changes drastically around 10 pm to bar closing time, especially on the weekends. There are hundreds of people exiting bars, hailing cabs, walking to their cars or socializing, many of whom are alcohol-impaired. This is when tempers flare and the violent behavior occurs. But even then, a larger problem than violent crime is maintaining order.

The CFF Foundation Board continues to encourage and support the cross-swearing of local police and ABC law enforcement. This is a progressive step forward in strengthening public safety and the overall quality of life in our region.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tooth Fairies, Wolf Beer and Derivatives Trading…Just Another Night at the E-Center

Jonathan Rowe and his dedicated crew have done it again. Six young and innovative companies made their pitch at the UNCW Entrepreneurship Center’s latest Rocket Pitch Event. Attendees were captured by the incredible products and business plans presented as they munched on goodies and sipped on locally brewed beer. Ranging from high-tech derivative trading to contract micro-beer brewing to tooth fairy entertainment for children, these entrepreneurs are tapping into real markets with real demand.

Over 26 companies have presented since the Rocket Pitch Event program began. As an individual who’s career revolves around economic development and entrepreneurship, these events are always especially exciting. Each business represented an aspect of the type of knowledge-sector companies Cape Fear Future is trying to attract, grow, and retain. The creativity, hard work, and professionalism of these start-ups was inspiring. It was evident that each was born of ingenuity and courage.

The Entrepreneurship Center is a true asset to this region- it is impressive that this Center is able to bring together angel investors, entrepreneurs, media, business owners, students, and many more in the same room. These events are just one of many offered by the E-Center in helping regional business growth, and I am certain it will continue to be an archetypal platform for other entrepreneurial programs across the state.

For details on the featured companies and to access their individual websites please visit:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Red Light - Green Light

How to Play:

The player designated as "It" stands a good distance away from the rest of the kids, with his back turned to the rest of the group. He calls, "Green Light!" and the children run toward him until he says, "Red Light.” "It" turns around and tries to catch anyone who is moving. If he sees someone moving, that person must go back to the start line. Play continues until someone runs up and tags “It”.

I have fond memories of playing this game on hot summer days with my siblings…back then it didn’t mean much more to me than just being a game. But now I see that it teaches children the significance of simple traffic signals and how to obey the rules while having fun. But those who crafted Senate Bill 187 have apparently forgotten this simple game and the lessons it taught.

Senate Bill 187 is an act to make the use of photographic camera systems to regulate traffic unlawful. If passed, this bill will eliminate the use of all red light cameras in the state. It has already been passed through the Senate Transportation Committee and will be up for vote in the House in the coming weeks.

There are two glaring reasons Cape Fear Future opposes this bill. Currently, the fine money generated from the red light camera system goes toward camera operational costs and NC schools. At our last Commission meeting, superintendents from the tri-county area were able to provide insight into the constrained framework our educators have to work within. This is further exacerbated by budget cuts that have been made at both the state and local levels.

As if another cut to school funding is not motive enough to oppose the bill, Wilmington has seen a great reduction in traffic accidents in those intersections where the red light cameras are in place. According to the NC Department of Transportation, in 2008, Wilmington ranked number one for car crashes compared to other cities with populations of 10,000 or more.

This staggering statistic illustrates the need for traffic cameras in places like Wilmington that have a high incidence of traffic accidents. A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found the cameras save lives and prevent crashes in intersections.

So you are running through a red light...the camera catches you. You should have stopped but you didn't. You were caught in the act. That is the same premise as Red Light-Green Light, an old fashioned children’s' game...why shouldn’t you pay a fine?

Unfortunately, this issue isn’t as simple as playing a childhood game….but we will be covering our eyes and turning our backs if we don't stop the red light legislation that affects children's education. We have a responsibility to see that everyone follows the rules.

Because these cameras help “patrol” intersections, police can focus on other priorities, and the schools get much-needed funding. With our efforts to improve region’s K-12 school systems and quality of life, Cape Fear Future opposes passage of this bill. Please reach out to our representatives in the North Carolina House and educate them on the implications…and let’s send Senate Bill 187 back to the starting line.

Please see the link below for a list of the NC House of Representatives Members. Click on the Representative’s name and you will be able to access their contact information.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Make a pledge of financial support for a new Arts Council for Wilmington and New Hanover County

Cape Fear Future supports the creation of an arts council in Wilmington and New Hanover County to expand arts-driven economic development, to cultivate and sustain artists and arts organizations in our community and to enhance the quality of life for our citizens.

The Steering Committee established to create an arts council for Wilmington and New Hanover County believes that the best foundation for an arts council is a public/private partnership made up of government support from local, state and federal sources, and private support from businesses, individuals and foundations. The steering committee is currently seeking support from local government sources and believes private sector pledges may help leverage that support.

In order to demonstrate a strong level of commitment from the private sector, we are asking our business members to join us in pledging their financial support for an arts council by April 30th. You will be only be asked to fulfill your pledge if funding is secured from local government sources by September 1, 2011.

Thank you for your pledge of support for the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization. Contributions are tax-deductible as allowed by law.

Please see the link below to make a pledge:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cape Fear Future Hosts First Commission Meeting of the Year

This Wednesday, the Cape Fear Future Foundation Board hosted the first Cape Fear Future Commission meeting of 2011.

The three school superintendents from the tri-county area participated in a panel discussion: Ms. Allison Sholar of Pender, Dr. Tim Markley of New Hanover, and Dr. Edward Pruden of Brunswick. The moderated discussion was led by John Gizdic, Vice President of New Hanover Regional Medical Center and team leader for Cape Fear Future’s Education Task Force. This team is focused on supporting our region’s K-12 school systems and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) proficiency. Therefore, the goal of this summit was to gain a better understanding of the challenges, strengths, and opportunities facing our schools and what the business community can do to help improve school performance.

A range of topics were covered in an attempt to educate the Commission and invited guests, while also engaging their participation and analysis of school performance. The meeting began with an overview of the three school systems and the current challenges they face. While they all confront a range of encumbrances, two main areas were identified: the shrinking federal, state, and local budgets which drastically reduce resources and also the challenge in keeping our kids in school.

Public schools are held accountable to both federal and state standards which leaves little flexibility. However, our regions’ schools have implemented a range of programs to better monitor individual student performance and overall graduation rates. The foundation of these school systems are strong; nonetheless, there is always room for improvement and, with reduced resources and personnel, it is challenging. Part of the meeting was dedicated to covering these programs and subsequent performance metrics, but the core of the meeting called on the business community’s input.

Dr. Tim Markley made an illuminating point: schools do not operate like businesses because when schools have a budget shortfall they still have kids coming through the door that they have to provide for. Therefore, the business community’s participation is a viable and valuable strategy that can help supplement this hindrance.

So what did the panel suggest businesses do? They welcomed the idea of summer internships for students and teachers in an effort to provide them a real-world view of life after high school. These internships would also help students understand the connection between their studies and their post graduate careers. Mentorships are also needed at all levels. Many children do not have the background or support they need to do well in school and these types of partnerships help fill that gap. Another recommendation was for business people to meet with principals and teachers to talk about best management and leadership practices. The panelists also expressed the need for outside individuals to actually visit the schools so they can get a better understanding of the framework in which the administration must operate.

The superintendents also cited current successful partnerships that they would like to see duplicated. For example, GE has had a long-term presence at Rachel Freeman School of Engineering where dozens of volunteers work with the students, coaching them on how math and science are used in their professions.

Williston Middle School is going to launch a pilot iPad program which will allow new opportunities for growth in education through technology, while supporting the utilization of 21st century technology. In Brunswick County, they will be using federal funds from Race to the Top to implement Project Lead the Way, a STEM education curriculum for middle and high schools. Pender County has several STEM programs in place as well, and they are currently expanding and improving their technology infrastructure by going wireless.

As the Cape Fear Future Education Team’s goal is to support K-12 education with a focus on STEM, the aforementioned programs should be highlighted and expanded to all schools. The next step will be a call for action to engage and partner the business community with our schools so we can provide our children and future workforce with the academic and communicative skills necessary to compete in our now global economy.

Education and quality of life are fundamental pillars of our community. The business community’s participation was vital to this discussion as they identify workforce preparation needs. The CFF team strongly believes a partnership between the business community and our schools systems is key for the improvement of our students’ education, future workforce skills, and economic development as a whole.

See the following link for the StarNews article:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre Hosts Job Creation Summit at CFCC

Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. That was the buzz at the Job Creation Summit hosted by U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre at Cape Fear Community College on Tuesday. The forum focused on how Southeastern North Carolina can bring together partners from public, private, and educational institutions to improve workforce development, business recruitment, and job creation.

Several heavy hitters were there to educate the attendees, including: NC Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco, Executive Director of the BRAC Regional Task Force Greg Taylor, U.S. Department of Labor Regional Representative Robert Asaro-Angelo, Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education Dr. Brenda Dann-Messier, and Senior Advisor and Director of Strategic Initiatives of the U.S. Department of Commerce Barry E.A. Johnson.

The featured panelists echoed President Obama’s call for Americans to “out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” This call for action has become increasingly relevant as we are in a conceptual age where economic development is becoming more and more competitive. Regions aren’t just competing against each other anymore, now nations are...and the United States is falling behind. Look at your tricked out iPhone or Blackberry…bet it ain’t made in America.

While the two-hour summit covered a range of issues, there were two themes unanimously emphasized.

The first was higher education. A staggering 27% of students in the U.S. are high school drop outs. This is at a time where the majority of the workforce must be highly educated and highly skilled. At the federal level, leadership has responded by creating an action plan to boost college graduation rates. President Obama has even gone as far to challenge every single American to get more than a high school education, even if it is just one additional course in higher education. This is undoubtedly in response to two issues: the global achievement gap where the U.S. is tied for 9th place for college completion for 25-34 year olds, and second being the need for students/graduates to learn those skills needed in the knowledge based workforce.

The second theme was the unveiling of a new economic development framework for regions across the nation. Panelists also provided a range of tools at the federal level used to implement this strategy. While the federal government cannot lead the private sector, it can provide support and nurture ideas that come out of business and community convening. The top-down role they play is advancing a common framework- the feds have incredible resources and can play a role in presenting and encouraging frameworks that work.

So what is that strategy? Regionally led economic development.

I realize this doesn’t sound necessarily groundbreaking as most regions have economic development boards, councils, and departments in place. However, this strategy is focused on a ground-up approach rather than the top-down fads that are often adopted in an effort to keep pace.

The panelists suggest local leaders better align their individual workforce system by providing training programs that specifically meet regional workforce sector needs. It becomes dangerous when regions focus on the new cool industry because more often than not, they aren’t positioned to effectively carry them out—let’s get real, not everyone can have a booming nanotechnology industry.

Most regions have a prevailing industry, asset, and particular opportunity for growth… therefore, regions must pursue economic development initiatives that value the unique strengths of that individual area.

A number of strategies were provided, but one of particular interest was the Regional Innovation Clusters Model (RICs). They are geographic concentrations of firms and industries that do business with each other and have common needs for talent, technology, and infrastructure. This new framework leverages core regional strengths by coordinating and synchronizing workforce development efforts like business training, counseling, mentoring, commercialization and technology transfer services. This way, there is a consistency and a common goal. Graduates and others looking for work have a better chance of finding the training and resources they need to get a job…a job in the region they live nonetheless.

In closing, we realize we must have the best trained, educated, and skilled workforce to compete in the global economy. A daunting task, right? Fortunately, the panelists presented an array of federal resources and toolkits to help assist regions as embark on their economic development journeys.

We all too often get stuck on what we think we aren’t. But the main takeaway here is the importance of focusing on the Cape Fear Region’s assets and building on them. We have the ports. We have film. We have tourism. We have beaches. We have a downtown riverfront. We have biotech. We have military. We have arts. We have colleges. Most importantly, we have a southern-hospitality-beach-minded vibe that is unrivaled. We are a unique area brimming with potential for incredible job creation…

Carpe diem.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Catching the Entrepreneurial Wave

For many young professionals in Wilmington, suitable work is hard to come by…but the quality of life is too good to prompt them to move. This makes a compelling case for entrepreneurship. If you can’t find a job in the place you love, create your own! Take Mickey Anglemyer, a Cape Fear Community College graduate who recently launched Mickey June Surfboards, a design company that makes custom surfboard art for young groms up to seasoned surfers.

After putting herself through college, Mickey was saddled with student loans. With an associates in art and design, she was worried there was no profitability in art… so she decided she needed to do something more mainstream and marketable like graphic design—“something that fit the mold …a 9 to 5 kind of thing”.

Graphic design positions were difficult to find in the Cape Fear region so she reluctantly moved to Raleigh where she landed an internship creating images, logos, websites, and screen printing. But Mickey says she was always more attracted to the creative and artistic side of the visual communication company and not the production and processing pieces.

“I like the feeling of working with my hands. I never felt like I could create what was in my head on the computer…it is too rigid, too structured. My vision is too organic and my style is the thing that will make me successful.”

After spending a few months in graphic design, Mickey switched gears. It all started when she decided to paint a psychedelic scene on her boyfriend’s surfboard for his birthday. Upon completion, she was pretty impressed with the product and knew that with the robust surfing community in the Wilmington area, there was serious potential for her designs.

“I wanted the freedom to create what I see. Surfboards are something I’m naturally drawn to because of the lifestyle, the youth, the colors, and the shape. The Greeks used to paint pots with sea creatures according to the shape of the vase. It seems like common sense but there are very few instances where you can do that. You can create a painting that is made for the shape and size of that particular board—it’s like giving it a face or a personality. The more research I did on surfboard art the more it became abundantly clear there isn’t much out there on the East Coast. It’s hard to find an artist that has really done it and built the brand.”

Mickey has tapped into a unique niche and is seeing no shortage of orders. With an extensive network in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach, boards are floating in left and right. While business is booming, Mickey is looking to grow her brand and formally create a startup…but she needs help.

Her story is one of many. College students are increasingly encouraged to think more entrepreneurially across all disciplines as our workforce and market demand is constantly changing. Securing a job these days isn’t easy, but as studies show college graduates are likely to choose a location before a job, it isn’t surprising that entrepreneurial ventures are on the rise.

Luckily, Wilmington is home to the UNCW Entrepreneurship Center, which is able to provide the financial and business guidance needed by young entrepreneurs. Institutions like this one are vital to economic development in our region. Entrepreneurs like Anglemyer have a vision and have a specific target market. But without support from the experts it is difficult to secure capital, launch a marketing campaign, find work space, file legal status, generate a stable revenue stream, and quite frankly, maintain sanity within the new found pressures of the business world.

In Mickey’s case, entrepreneurism and quality of life go hand in hand. It is important that our Foundation, in cooperation with others, realize this linkage and build a bridge to foster entrepreneurial growth while simultaneously enhancing our region’s already incredible assets so we can grow and attract new business- exceptional business- right here at home.

Surf’s up…and so is entrepreneurism!