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.

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