TRADING UP: TACKLING WORKER SHORTAGES HUNTLEY GARRIOTT DETAILS LIVE OAK BANK’S NEXT MOVES SODA POP DISTRICT IS ALL THE BUZZ ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT + INNOVATIONSP ARK 2022 ON IT BANKING ON IT BANKING Wilmington B iz MAGAZINE greater Wilmington BUSINESS JOURNAL Published by FALL 2022
Extraordinary Results 3807 Peachtree Avenue - Suite 200 | Wilmington, NC 28403 910.395.6036 www.mckinleybuilding.com Continuing to build on a foundation to help drive our community’s economic development
The Cape Fear region continues to add new jobs across many different sectors, many of which involve technology. The City of Wilmington is taking steps to make sure our residents have the skills necessary to join our growing digital workforce. Recently, Wilmington City Council unanimously voted to award $2.5 million of American Rescue Plan Act funding* to launch DigitalBridge Wilmington, an innovative partnership with nonprofits and employers to create a digital upskilling, re-skilling, and job pairing program. The funding will support the program for two years, at which point it is expected to be self-sustaining.
DigitalBridge Wilmington will provide training, access, and connection to in-demand jobs for Wilmington residents who want to transition to careers in the digital economy. While open to anyone, it will focus recruitment on high opportunity, high need census tracts, with the goal to enable all segments of the population to benefit from the digitization of the local economy.
This initiative follows several other strategic investments by the City of Wilmington’s American Rescue Plan funding, including $3.5 million in affordable housing, $2 million for small business recovery, $700,000 for local nonprofits providing critical and cultural services, $400,000 in workforce training, and $200,000 to combat food insecurity. These reflect the city’s priority to invest $9 million from the American Rescue Plan directly into economic and community assistance.
*All ARPA allocations are given in accordance with U.S. Treasury ARP guidance and NC General Statute authorization.
Stay current on what’s happening in the city! Get weekly updates delivered to your inbox by subscribing to the Wilmington Current newsletter at: thewilmingtoncurrent.com
wilmington bizmagazine.com SUMMER 2022 1
2 W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE CONTENTS W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE | FALL 2022 | VOLUME V | ISSUE3 ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT + INNOVATION 28 LIVE OAK GROWTH SPURT 34 MISSING PIECES 40 TOP PROJECTS 43 TOOLS OF THE TRADES 69 SOFTWARE STARTUPS 72 IN PROFILE: ULKU CLARK 74 FEEDING FRENZY SP ARK 49 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE MARKETING SECTION 2022
ON THE COVER
For the issue’s cover, photographer Madeline Gray met Live Oak Bank President Huntley Garriott at the bank’s growing headquarters on Tiburon Drive. Live Oak plans to start work on its fourth building at the campus.
FALL 2022 3wilmington bizmagazine.com CONTENTS W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE | FALL 2022 | VOLUME V | ISSUE 3 5 LETTER FROM THE EDITOR 9 BIZ BITES 10 BEHIND THE NUMBERS 12 SOUND OFF 16 THE DIGEST 17 C-SUITE CONVO 80 THE TAKEAWAY DEPARTMENTS 18 18 BUBBLING UP: SODA POP DISTRICT 22 IN PROFILE: MARGARET WELLER-STARGELL FEATURES
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They all had a common goal, regardless of allegiances: To make money and have careers outside of their past experiences. That was the early promise of the TRU Colors concept.
Barnett, an initial hire at TRU Colors, said this in a 2017 Business Journal story detailing a new idea for a Wilmington-based brewery employing gang members. He was expressing why he didn’t think having rival gang members at the same workplace would equal in-fighting.
Because there was common ground.
Tapping into the fast-growing beer brewing industry, TRU Colors would take side paths into employment apprenticeships, media production, a recording studio and other non-beer-related activities attempting to address its social-impact side.
Then, in September of 2021, the company launched its first beer, a lager that was distributed in stores and backed by the name recognition of Molson Coors, which had acquired a minority stake in the company.
A year later, the outside-the-box concept appears to have reached the end of the runway.
On Sept. 7, founder and CEO George Taylor abruptly announced that TRU Colors – with its 55,000-square-foot brewery, taproom, offices, etc. on Greenfield Street – would be closing within days.
I can’t speak to what happens after Sept. 7 since we send this issue off to the printer tomorrow morning, or whether there’s a next chapter coming for TRU Colors, but as of today, Taylor said the brewery’s last day of operations was Sept. 9.
There’s a long list of reasons behind the decision, which by now have already been reported on, debated and commented about.
So, instead, let’s talk about the workers who do have next chapters to figure out however things work out.
When TRU Colors was first presented
publicly at a Cucalorus Connect, it was pitched as a private sector attempt at addressing a social solution to gang-related violence in Wilmington.
The model was not fully embraced by all top law enforcement officials and community grassroots leaders who had been working on the issue for much longer. But it was an attempt at innovating an answer – a shake-up approach to try something new against a systemic issue. You can decide whether it was the right path or not.
Looking forward, the question is: What is now the right approach for the workers without positions and paychecks? And the question extends beyond just TRU Colors employees as the Port City continues to find its footing on a lengthy history of addressing post-1898 impact ripples.
“Money’s the great equalizer,” can mean more than just one thing depending on whom you ask.
Many suggestions have come from many corners. But there’s still work, it seems, for solutions.
Maybe another common ground can be defined.
VICKY JANOWSKI, EDITOR email@example.com Ground
oney’s the great equalizer,” Steve Barnett said.
FALL 2022 5wilmington bizmagazine.com LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
MADELINE GRAY is a freelance documentary photographer based in Wilmington. With a master’s degree in photojournalism, her work is regularly featured in local and national publications. She enjoys spending time in places that are off the beaten track and collaborating to share the diverse stories found there. Gray photographed Live Oak Bank President Huntley Garriott for the cover and story about the bank’s expansion on PAGE 28 and Hi-Wire Brewing for Bubbling Up (PAGE18). madelinegrayphoto.com and Instagram @madelinepgray
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CECE NUNN has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, currently working as the assistant editor and real estate reporter for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal. She lives in Wilmington with her husband and two daughters. Nunn wrote the issue’s cover story about Live Oak Bank and its next phase (PAGE 28).
JOHANNA F. STILL
JOHANNA F. STILL is a reporter and photographer for the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, covering industry and economic development. Still earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A Wilmington native, she previously worked as assistant editor for Port City Daily. Still writes about the economic development landscape on PAGE 34 and shares updates on major infrastructure projects on PAGE 40.
MARK WEBER is an illustrator and fine artist who is based in Wilmington. His work has appeared in many magazines and publications including Greater Wilmington Business Journal, WILMA, New York Times, The Atlantic, Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone and Highlights for Children to name a few. Weber’s illustration appears with a story about the area’s economic development assets and missing pieces on PAGE 34. weberillustration.com and markweberart.com
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FALL 2022 7wilmington bizmagazine.com © 2022 Liberty Senior Living Explore two fabulous Liberty Senior Living communities in the Wilmington area. CarolinaBayatAutumnHall.com 910.541.8538 BrightmoreofWilmington.com 910.507.7384 A Life Plan Community offered by Liberty Senior Living Retirement Living Choices offered by Liberty Senior Living
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With a background in business, Kirk Englebright didn’t set out to construct new film studios –something that hasn’t happened in the region in over a decade – when he purchased what’s since become Dark Horse Studios.
But once film producers started calling asking to use the location off Market Street he had initially acquired for a health care purpose, Englebright jumped on the opportunity.
So far, he has renovated Dark Horse Studios’ existing space to fit three sound studios, purchased new office buildings nearby and is planning three additional stages in a new building set to open early next year.
“It cannot come fast enough,” Englebright said.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS |
SOUND OFF | THE DIGEST | C-SUITE CONVO
photo by LOGAN BURKE
FALL 2022 9wilmington bizmagazine.com B
INCREASE IN TOURIST SPENDING IN THE REGION BETWEEN 2020 AND 2021
VISITOR SPENDING WAY UP IN 2021 FOR CAPE FEAR REGION
BY JOHANNA F. STILL
VISITOR SPENDING IN THE CAPE FEAR REGION WAS UP last year, according to newly released state data.
Tourist spending in the tri-county region jumped a dramatic 41% between 2020 and 2021, slightly behind the state average of nearly 45%.
A study commissioned by the state’s tourism arm, Visit North Carolina, part of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, shows tourism supported nearly 12,000 jobs in the Cape Fear region last year.
New Hanover County saw 6,142 jobs supported by visitors last year, Pender County had 924 and Brunswick had 4,929, according to the study.
Statewide, visitor activity has nearly rebounded from the hit imposed by the pandemic: Tourism spending in North Carolina is just 1% shy of 2019 totals. Locally, visitor spending has far surpassed pre-pandemic totals, from nearly $1.4 billion in 2019 to nearly $2.1 billion last year.
Within the region, growth was most dramatic in New Hanover County, with spending up nearly 56% and visitors spending $930 million. The county ranked seventh among the state’s 100 counties, according to a news release from the Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“While we expected an increase over 2020 pandemic-driven decreases, we did not anticipate that spending in 2021 would so greatly exceed our pre-pandemic record of $658.78 million in 2019, representing a 41.23 percent increase,” Kim Hufham, president and CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, stated in the release.
Brunswick County once again beat New Hanover County’s total tourism spending (which it surpassed for the first time in 2020), generating $975.1 million last year at 33% year-over-year growth.
Brunswick County Tourism Development Authority director Mitzi York said her team wasn’t surprised by the year-over-year increase. “We continue to feel fortunate that tourism in Brunswick County has fared well during the pandemic,” she wrote in an email.
Pender County tourism spending grew 25% to $165 million. Tourism generated about $8.9 million in local taxes in Pender County, amounting to a savings of about $243 per resident, according to county tourism director Tammy Proctor.
Combined, the tri-county region’s share of visitor spending was 7.2% of the state’s total last year, according to data shared in the report.
TRAVEL TIME TO WORK
NEW HANOVER: 19.9 min
BRUNSWICK: 24.8 min
PENDER: 31.5 min
NEW HANOVER COUNTY
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Cape Fear Collective, AAA, SmartAsset
10 W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
Biz B ites
POPULATION UNDER 65 WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE 9.9 % 8%: HEALTHY NC
BY 2030 HIGHESTRECORDED AVERAGE GAS PRICE PER GALLON $4.675 ON JUNE 13,
NEW HANOVER COUNTY PER-CAPITA INCOME $50,780
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SOUND OFF E agl ES I S la N d :
value and opportunity
NEW HANOVER AND BRUNSWICK COUNTIES ARE BLESSED WITH BEAUTIFUL NATURAL AREAS WITH MILD CLIMATES AND ABUNDANT NATURAL RESOURCES. THESE ARE AMONG THE IMPORTANT REASONS THAT OUR POPULATION IS BOOMING, THE ECONOMY IS GROWING AND THERE IS A RECORD INFLUX OF TOURISTS.
Tourism expenditures were a record in 2021. Brunswick and New Hanover counties received $975.1 and $930.4 million, respectively, ranking 6th and 7th in revenue by county in North Carolina. These dollars support jobs, associated businesses and beach nour ishment and add tax revenue.
Growth does, however, have some negative consequences. Increasing pop ulation and development have led to increasing infrastructure demands. But it has also led to ecosystem stress, and too often to a loss of green spaces. And once impaired or lost, their economic values are reduced.
Natural areas/green spaces are eco nomic drivers. They provide the com munity with abundant recreational and aesthetic benefits while also providing many undervalued ecosystem services including flood water storage, storm water mitigation and buffers to storm surge, and they are highly productive ecosystems that provide both primary productivity and carbon storage.
New Hanover and Brunswick have protected some areas and should be
credited for this work, but we have a chance to be even better stewards of significant land tracts that benefit the region in multiple ways. Preservation of Eagles Island is one of several opportu nities to protect an important natural area in our community.
Eagles Island consists of 3,110 acres, with the southern, approximately 1,500 acres dedicated to the storage of dredge spoil material from the Cape Fear River. The remainder is mostly undeveloped and owned by a mix of private and government entities.
The island is surrounded by the Cape Fear and Brunswick rivers provid ing primary nursery areas for many fin fish species, including the endangered Atlantic and Shortnose sturgeons. The island is primarily composed of marsh lands with minor upland spoil islands. The wetlands are highly productive ecosystems with high biodiversity.
Eagles Island is also historically significant to our area with its former rice culture (Gullah Geechee heritage), naval stores industry and rich maritime history that was and still is important to the growth of the region.
You are undoubtedly asking, what is the issue if Eagles Island is mostly an undeveloped area? The answer for Eagles Island, and other areas, is that development pressure is real and grow ing, and we have limited natural areas remaining in New Hanover County;
Brunswick County is even more rapidly developing.
On Eagles Island, development ideas include suggestions for mixeduse as well as a proposed hotel and spa south of the USS North Carolina Battleship. And even though Unique Places to Save is attempting to pur chase this acreage, it is important that we highlight issues and best use of our lands.
I believe that the New Hanover County planning department’s scenario of limited use is most appropriate for Eagles Island. In fact, the Eagles Island Task Force has a plan that mirrors that scenario with ecotourism opportunities and a low-impact educational center that would complement our North Car olina treasure – the USS North Caroli na Battleship.
Why is this the best plan? There are two primary reasons.
First, there is conservation of an important natural area that helps store and buffer floodwaters that could also provide ecotourism benefits like hiking, biking, birding and kayaking. In addition, the educational site would highlight the culture and history of our area. Imagine a destination site for a full day of history, culture, education and ecotourism that would benefit the community and businesses.
The other reason to minimize de velopment is water; water makes Eagles Island special but also hazardous. Ea gles Island, and much of the west bank, are in a compound flood zone, meaning there are multiple sources of flooding including river flooding from upstream, storm surge and high-tide flooding moving upriver, and local rainfall with stormwater runoff.
12 W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE Biz B ites
We have experienced multiple storm-related flooding events in cluding Hurricanes Floyd, Matthew, Florence and Isaias. But we also have flooding events that are not storm related.
The 10th-largest flood event measured on Eagles Island was caused by high-tide flooding and onshore winds on Jan. 3, 2022. Water levels measured 2-plus feet above normal. This moderate flood event inundated the roads around the Bat tleship as well as on Point Peter.
Please note, this will be the everyday scenario in the coming decades based on NOAA sea-level rise projections.
There are other factors that are concerning for large development on Eagles Island: prevalence of wetland soils, accelerating sea-level rise, increasing numbers of hightide flooding days and a high-water table.
These issues lead to numerous management and safety concerns for large developments in this floodplain.
In fact, the New Hanover Coun ty Unified Development Ordinance (Article 9) clearly states their con cerns for public health and safety in these floodplains, and have a goal of minimizing public and private losses due to flooding in flood prone areas.
The water will come; we need to learn to live with it as the Battle ship does instead of in conflict with it.
I ask that we consider the Lim ited Use Plan concept and couple it with the Eagles Island Task Force vision of a low-impact nature park, which would be a great asset to our area and a source of pride for years to come. It would be a win for the region.
Roger Shew teaches geology and environmental science at University of North Carolina Wilmington. He is a board member of Cape Fear River Watch and a member of the Eagles Island Task Force.
REACTIONS, OPINIONS AND QUOTABLES FROM OUR ONLINE SOUNDING BOARDS
WHICH DO YOU THINK IS WILMINGTON’S HOTTEST NEW (OPENED IN THE PAST YEAR) RESTAURANT?
“IT’S A TOSS-UP BETWEEN Origins and Seabird. Both are amazing locations with top-notch kitchens and wait staffs. If I’m leaning toward seafood for dinner, definitely Seabird, if not I head to Origins.” - DAVID C. BORKOWSKI
“ORIGINS FOR THE ATMOSPHERE , design, service, food all amazing! The owner has done a fantastic job.” - LIZ BIANCHINI
OTHER POSTERS’ ANSWERS included Kipos Hellenic Cuisine; True Blue Butcher and Barrel; and Blueberry’s Grill, to name a few.
TWITTER POLL: @WILMINGTONBIZ
WHICH BEACH TOWN IN NEW HANOVER COUNTY IS BEST?
“WILMINGTON REMINDS US OF SAVANNAH 15, 20 YEARS AGO, BEFORE SAVANNAH KIND OF POPPED UP, t he big wave of growth through the port here. It’s got a lot of similarities to Savannah as far as being a tourist destination, great beaches and great waterways. And if we’re gonna continue to expand outside of Savannah, Wilmington makes a lot of sense. It’s a place where one, we’re going to want to hang out and to get to know the community, and also, we’re going to be excited to hire team members that will be part of that community.”
– PORT CITY LOGISTICS CEO ERIC HOWELL ON WHY THE COMPANY CHOSE TO EXPAND INTO WILMINGTON
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FALL 2022 13wilmington bizmagazine.com Biz B ites
ye s CAROLINA
42.9% 35.7% 21.4%
CONNECTIVITY, WHETHER PHYSICAL, INTERNET OR ECONOMIC, IS THE DRIVER OF INCLUSIVE GROWTH.
To some, economic development means shiny new buildings, to some it means more jobs in the area (or filling the more than 6,500 open jobs in New Hanover County), and to some it means people moving to the region congesting the roads. But to all of us, economic development should mean improving the lives of those living in our region.
Development is more than growth; we should strive to create opportunities for residents to improve their lives. The whole point of attracting jobs is to help our neighbors support their families, find work that is meaningful or create an opportunity for their children to live better lives than their parents.
Development focuses on improvement; growth is only expansion.
The New Hanover Community Endowment is bringing financial capital to the work. Wilmington Business Development is bringing coordination and external outreach. The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is providing support to existing businesses. The city and county are bringing physical infrastructure. But only we as a community can develop and provide the human and social capital.
Research out of Harvard’s Opportunity Insights emphasizes that human capital is more than formal education, it includes social
capital as well, specifically, economic connectedness of people in the region.
Prior work, dubbed the Opportunity Atlas, identified large differences in upward mobility depending on where one grew up, especially in their formative years.
The data suggest city and county levels of geography are too large an area and that differences are apparent in terms of blocks rather than miles. New work coming out of the Opportunity Insights team suggests economic connectivity is the strongest predictor of those differences in upward mobility.
Using Facebook data (yes, the data we hate Facebook collecting) researchers are matching up patterns of friends across income groups with income mobility and finding that areas with low-income individuals who friend high-income individuals also tend to have higher income mobility than other areas.
No, correlation is not causation, but the relationship is evidence that connecting individuals in search of opportunity to previous recipients of opportunity may help spread the opportunity around.
Digging into the data for New Hanover County reveals that we are close to the national average for lowincome individuals being “exposed” to high-income individuals and slightly above average in terms of those individuals’ likeliness to friend each other – but only by about 2%.
The Opportunity Insights report, recently published in the journal Nature , states that economic connectedness is strongly associated with upward economic mobility, evidence that “it’s not what you know, but who you know.”
Economic connectedness remains a strong predictor even when factoring in racial segregation, income inequality, etc., and we should be introducing folks to each other all around our region.
Southeastern North Carolina is uniquely positioned for economic connectedness because of our geography.
Neighborhoods and homes in our region are organized around the erratic pattern of water access rather than distance to a downtown employment center along an interstate, as in most metro areas. The pattern here provides for closer proximity of high- and low-income groups than many other communities, easing our task of connecting people across income levels.
Part of our economic development efforts should be thinking about how to facilitate friendships between groups through communal activities, strategic connections of neighborhoods through trails and parks, etc., much as the chamber organizes intentional collisions.
Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
We’re already preparing folks; now we need to connect them.
Adam Jones is chair of the economics and finance department and a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business.
14 W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE
Biz B ites
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DEVELOPERS BREAK GROUND ON CENTERPOINT
evelopers recently broke ground on CenterPoint, a major mixed-use community expected to hold 351 upscale rental homes, 100,000 square feet of retail shops and restaurants, class A office space and a hotel along Military Cutoff and Eastwood roads in Wilmington.
The Beach Co. and Wilmingtonbased Swain & Associates announced Aug. 29 that the groundbreaking for the development, which is nearly six years in the making, has taken place. Swain & Associates started working with The Beach Co. on CenterPoint about two years ago, said developer Jason Swain.
The project, which is underway on 23 acres at 1531 and 1541 Eastwood Road, has been anticipated to coincide with the start of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s extension of
Drysdale Drive off Military Cutoff. Swain & Associates purchased the property in a $13-million deal in 2019 and previously valued the development at $250 million.
“In 2016 we put into motion a plan to turn the best piece of undeveloped property in Wilmington into a development that will be the new center of activity in our region,” said developer David Swain, of Swain & Associates, who is also Jason Swain’s father. “We are pleased to have teamed up with The Beach Company and are excited to finally bring CenterPoint to life. When complete, this project will exemplify the type of high-quality mixed-use project that the city of Wilmington has been striving for.”
The first phase of CenterPoint, consisting of the multifamily and retail portions, is expected to open in mid2024.
A business development services company based in Wilmington is moving.
Genesis Block, founded in 2019 by entrepreneurial couple Tracey and Girard Newkirk to support fledgling companies, was leasing office, coworking and event space at 20 Wrights Aly (shown above).
“Beginning in September we will be transitioning away from offering coworking, meeting rooms and event space as part of our service offerings,” Genesis Block officials stated in an email to members. “We are excited to announce the launch of our Genesis Block Academy, Block Eatz and Genesis Bridge/DiCE.”
They said the move, which will put their corporate and administrative offices at downtown coworking facility Common Desk, will support this transition.
16 W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE Biz B ites
TO STAY IN THE LOOP ON THE LATEST AREA BUSINESS HAPPENINGS, CHECK OUT OUR DAILY AFTERNOON NEWSLETTER. SIGN UP AT WILMINGTONBIZ.COM. A ROUNDUP OF RECENT NEWSd I g EST THE GENESIS BLOCK MOVES ITS HOME BASE D $1.8 RENDERING C/O CI DESIGN $ $$ $ Additional revenue ILM estimates receiving in the next three years from new ground leases on airport property $ $ $ $ $ million $$
UP TO SPEED
FOCUS BROADBAND, FORMERLY CALLED ATMC, IS A MEMBER-OWNED COOPERATIVE PROVIDING COMMUNICATION SERVICES. WHILE IT IS BASED IN SHALLOTTE, IT OPERATES IN COUNTIES BEYOND BRUNSWICK’S BORDERS.
CEO Keith Holden has worked with the company since 1998, including previously as vice president of informa tion systems. He’s led the cooperative’s efforts to connect underserved rural communities with new or faster inter net service.
Below is a recent Q&A with Holden. To read more, go to wilmingtonbizmaga zine.com.
AT THE END OF 2021, ATMC – WHICH FORMED IN 1955 – ANNOUNCED ITS NAME CHANGE TO FOCUS BROADBAND. WHAT DID THE SHIFT MEAN FOR THE MEMBER-OWNED COOPERATIVE, AND WHAT ARE THOSE AREAS OF FOCUS NOW?
“The catalyst for rebranding is really a result of changes to our industry. Home telephone and cable TV are nearing the end of their product cycle and have been replaced by the importance of internet. So our change from ATMC to FOCUS Broadband was made to better reflect our company’s evolution from a traditional telephone and cable TV provider to one that specializes in providing high-speed internet. We’re still a local company with awardwinning customer service, and that will always be our first priority, but we are building a world-class communications infrastructure too.”
CEO & GENERAL MANAGER FOCUS Broadband
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGER FIBER OPTIC PROJECTS FOCUS IS WORKING ON NOW IN BRUNSWICK COUNTY? “Late last year, we announced a $100 million-dollar, multiyear project to convert the copper and coaxial networks in Brunswick County’s service area to a new 100% fiber optic network. This new network will eventually provide every Brunswick County customer with access to multigigabit speeds. We’ve already begun upgrading many areas near Seaside and Calabash, and additional areas will be upgraded early next year. Our ultimate goal is to serve all of our customers with fiber optics, but that won’t happen overnight …
We also recently completed a three-year project to provide fiber optic broadband to more than 3,500 homes in Boiling Spring Lakes. Boiling Springs Lakes was the latest area where we upgraded older cop per facility with fiber optics. In the last five years, we’ve completed fiber optic projects in Oak Island, Holden Beach, St. James and Ocean Isle Beach. We’ve also brought fiber optics to the county’s key business districts, such as Leland, Belville and Shallotte, and will be working to do the same in Calabash
BY VICKY JANOWSKI
later this year and early next.”
THE STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENTS HAVE INVESTED MONEY IN RECENT YEARS TOWARD COMPETITIVE GRANTS FOR PROVIDERS TO PUSH FOR MORE HIGH-SPEED INTERNET ACCESS. HAS FOCUS TAPPED INTO THOSE GRANTS? WHERE ARE YOU SEEING THE GREATEST NEED TO BRIDGE THIS “DIGITAL DIVIDE”? “Absolutely, FOCUS Broadband has worked very hard over the last three years to leverage both state and federal grants to expand our network to unserved and underserved communities …
Collectively, these grants will allow us to serve as many as 30,000 addition al households who desperately need access to high-speed internet. Our mission is to serve the unserved, and we’re able to accomplish that through the grant funding we’ve received …
We have been fortunate to work closely with so many counties in East ern North Carolina to help close the digital divide.
Many of these counties, even in 2022, have vast areas without access to high-speed internet. And when the pandemic hit, this lack of access made educating children remotely or working at home impossible for many.
We had a number of counties reach out to us for help, and when we did, we went to work assisting them with putting together Digital Inclusion Plans, which allow them to better deter mine unserved areas and outline ways to reach those that are not connected. Educating communities about the im portance of internet is critical, offering programs like the Affordable Connec tivity Program, and working alongside community leaders to advocate for dig ital inclusion are all equally important once the infrastructure is in place.”
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C - SUITE CONVO
B U B B L I N G UP
BY JUSTIN POPE PHOTOS BY MADELINE GRAY & MICHAEL CLINE SPENCER
BITES AND BREWS ARE ON THE MENU FIRST TO BRING NEW LIFE TO THE SODA POP DISTRICT
As Princess Street sees more redevelopment projects in the pipeline, food and drink have been the initial strategies to entice people to stop.
The area, nestled along Princess Street between New Hanover High School and downtown Wilmington, was dubbed the Soda Pop District – a reference to the former Coca-Cola bottling plant at Princess and 10th streets that serves as an anchor to the surrounding activity.
Like other outlying neighborhoods dotted around downtown attracting redevelopment – South Front, Cargo District, North Fourth – new restaurants and breweries have been key to build up traffic.
New establishments for the Soda Pop blocks, including Hi-Wire Brewing, seem to be just the start.
Earlier this summer, Cugino Forno, a restaurant specializing in Neapolitan-style pizza, opened its doors to a strong response.
“We didn’t necessarily look into the Wilmington market, but it has worked out well,” said Naim Erol, managing partner of Cugino Forno.
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Erol said that he and his business partners were approached by neighbors at Hi-Wire to open a location in Wilmington.
After some market studies, he and his cousins decided Wilmington would be right for their next spot. The Wilmington location joins five other Cugino Fornos in North Carolina and Maryland.
“We are neighbors with Hi-Wire at our Durham location as well, and we are great friends, so it’s a winwin situation,” said Erol, who moved to Wilmington to manage the new location.
If initial traffic is any indication of the success of HiWire (which opened in Wilmington in the fall of 2020) and Cugino Forno, the move proved a smart one. On any given evening, the parking lot is full, and cars are lined along the streets. Both locations also have outdoor
“We also get lots of walk-ins from people who live nearby,” he said, adding that so far Cugino has seemingly attracted locals rather than tourists.
The Cugino Forno space is attached to Hi-Wire –1020 Princess St., a block from the Coca-Cola bottling plant – and was renovated before opening. The building’s former life was as a car dealership, built in the 1940s.
“I see this whole area as a sort of new family destination,” Erol said. “We have pizza and salads and gelato. They have beer and ping pong tables, so we draw all ages.”
A longtime staple, Folks Café sits on the corner of Princess and 12th streets.
Owners Tammy and Juan Pacini have been in
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I SEE THIS WHOLE AREA AS A SORT OF NEW FAMILY DESTINATION. WE HAVE PIZZA AND SALADS AND GELATO. THEY HAVE BEER AND PING PONG TABLES, SO WE DRAW ALL AGES.
- NAIM EROL , MANAGING PARTNER, CUGINO FORNO
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business at the location for 22 years and have seen the coming and going activity.
“It’s a process you know,” Juan Pacini said. “It really has been seven to eight years of changes, and then some places closed, and others came. And now, there is a whole different environment here.”
He said that when they first opened Folks Café, there was only a handful of businesses – a convenience store, a thrift store and a laundromat. Many of the other buildings were boarded up.
Still, the Pacinis wouldn’t give up on their business.
“In 2000, when we came here verses today, it’s like night and day,” Tammy Pacini said.
“It took some time for Brooklyn (Arts District) area to develop, but look at it today, it’s thriving. What Andy is doing, is something wonderful,” she said.
Pacini is referring to Andy Hewitt, of Parastream Development. Hewitt and Sandy Thorpe have driven investment in the blocks, which in 2019 first bought the building to develop the Hi-Wire Brewing taproom.
already leased before the building is even move-in ready.
The second phase plans will unveil the 1920s-era bottling works building that has been hidden by metal panels along the corner of 10th and Princess streets for decades. The building was Wilmington’s first bottling plant, officials said.
The goal for The Bottle Works Building project is to “reactivate the neighboring streetscapes,” said Bruce Bowman, principal with Bowman Murray Hemingway Architects, which is working on the project that also includes Monteith Construction Corp.
A new mercantile storefront is planned along Princess Street.
“The Bottle Works Building is a unique product coming to Wilmington offering well-designed urban flex space for makers who need a central presence downtown that could get lost in an industrial park setting,” said Thorpe, a partner with Parastream Development.
Plans for the new look of the building will also be unique.
Last year, Parastream purchased buildings on three blocks for $8 million dollars. The deal included the Coca-Cola bottling building that is now in a first phase of renovation as well other buildings and property in the area.
One of those nearby buildings Parastream bought will be redeveloped and turned into Raleigh-based Bowstring Brewyard’s Wilmington outpost. The brewpub is expected to open at 1002 Princess St. sometime in the middle of next year. The Electric Bottling Co. originally used the building as a soda bottling plant, eventually selling it to Coca-Cola.
The long-term plan for the main Coca-Cola plant will be a multi-tenant, urban-flex warehouse that is ideal for a variety of uses, including makerspace to accommodate light manufacturing, assembly, warehouse and distribution in addition to office and retail with storefront opportunities, the developers have said. Plans also include communal loading docks and drive-in bays, along with other shared amenities. Forty percent of the space is
Artist renderings show an updated, freshly painted building that will also include film-inspired graphics as an ode to the nearby Cucalorus Film Festival’s headquarters: Jengo’s Playhouse.
When all done, the building will be an interactive space for tenants as well as customers, according to Thorpe. Parastream expects manufacturing as well as retail and hospitality to be filling the building's spaces.
For Folks Café’s Tammy Pacini, all the growth that has happened and anticipated is welcome news.
“Today, we see people walking to the new places. Some come here. Some are families and others are just young people out and about,” she said. “But it’s nice to see them walking in the neighborhood and enjoying themselves. We have been patiently waiting to see this, and now it’s happening.”
For more restaurant news, sign up for the Business Journal's weekly Restaurant Roundup email by going to WilmingtonBiz.
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OPPOSITE PAGE (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT): COCA-COLA BOTTLING PLANT (HISTORIC PHOTO) & BOTTLE WORKS BUILDING RENDERING; FOLK'S CAF É OWNERS TAMMY AND JUAN PACINI; HI-WIRE BREWING MOUNTAIN WATER BEER; HI-WIRE BREWING; CUGINO FORNO CO-FOUNDER JOSEPH OZBEY AT THE REGIONAL PIZZERIA CHAIN’S NEW SODA POP DISTRICT LOCATION; ANDY DAHILL POURS A DRINK FOR A CUSTOMER AT HI-WIRE BREWING JENGO'S PLAYHOUSE BOTTLE WORKS BUILDING 921815 1020 1201 FOLKS CAFÉ BOWSTRING BREWYARD (expected to open mid-2023) (former Coca-Cola bottling plan under redevelopment) eighth st. ninth st. 10th st. CUGINO FORNO + HI-WIRE BREWING 11th st. 12th st. PRINCESS STREET
STREET SODA POP DISTRICT AT A GLANCE 1002
HORIZON ON THE
MARGARET WELLER-STARGELL PHOTOGRAPHED AT PIER 33
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M A rg A ret W e LL erS tA rge LL F orge S C o AS tAL H orizon S
C enter ’ S WAy
BY SAMANTHA KUPIAINEN
PHOTO BY MICHAEL CLINE SPENCER
For Margaret WellerStargell, working at Coastal Horizons Center has been what she’s described as her “chosen career path,” so much so she’s been with the organization since 1985 when she started her work there in counseling.
Today, Weller-Stargell serves as the president and CEO of Coastal Horizons Center, which is a nonprofit corporation that provides crisis intervention, justice services and a range of substance use and mental health services to more than half of the 100 counties in North Carolina.
to the rise in individuals needing substance abuse and mental health services.
“We realized that in order to treat the behavioral side of an individual, we had to treat the primary care too because one directly impacts the other,” she said. “I would say too that the growth has been because some of the stigma that we might have seen 20 years ago has thankfully lessened.
“There’s more acceptance and acknowledgment that people are struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. There needs to be a place, a safe place, for them to go and seek treatment and services. And that’s what Coastal Horizons does. That’s why we’re here.”
Margaret Weller-Stargell was part of last year’s WilmingtonBiz 100 as an Influencer. This year’s group will be announced in late-September and highlighted in the December issue of the WilmingtonBiz Magazine.
“I saw what the mission of the organization was, what the vision of the organization was,” she said. “Flo Stein, who was the original director, was the visionary behind this organization. In watching her and seeing where she wanted to see this organization go, I knew I wanted to be part of it and to help move us in that direction. I was very clear in knowing that is what I wanted to do.”
When Weller-Stargell first started out with the organization, she was working in its crisis center, then moved into the role of director of crisis intervention only a year later.
“I think it was clear to our board that I understood and embraced the vision and mission of this organization, as did everyone that was working there at the time,” she said. “I think that I wanted to let it be known that I wanted to be in a leadership role. I wanted to help guide the direction that had been started by Flo Stein in moving us forward in the direction that we had gone.”
As the president and CEO, Weller-Stargell strives to lead the organization and ensure its patients receive the best care possible, which includes making sure they have the best staff possible. Recently, areas of growth at Coastal Horizons have included behavioral health and primary care. This is largely due
MARGARET WELLER-STARGELL PRESIDENT & CEO OF COASTAL HORIZONS CENTER
Weller-Stargell is founder and president of the Willie Stargell Foundation, a private nonprofit that raises money to help people with kidney disease. It’s named after her husband, Hall of Fame baseball player Willie Stargell, who died of kidney disease in 2001.
The nonprofit fundraises through events, with this year marking the 20th annual Willie Stargell Celebrity Invitational in November.
On the state level, Margaret Weller-Stargell has been active on state health and human services boards including the N.C. Medical Care Commission and N.C.
WE REALIZED THAT IN ORDER TO TREAT THE BEHAVIORAL SIDE OF AN INDIVIDUAL, WE HAD TO TREAT THE PRIMARY CARE TOO BECAUSE ONE DIRECTLY IMPACTS THE OTHER. ” ”
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Department of Health and Human Services Waiver Advisory Committee.
For the past couple of years, Weller-Stargell and the Coastal Horizons board have been vocal about what they feel the nonprofit’s role should be with the county’s newest treatment center.
In 2020, New Hanover County commissioners voted in favor of Louisville, Kentucky-based The Healing Place to operate a treatment center being built in Wilmington.
Earlier this month, Coastal Horizon’s board issued a statement repeating its disappointment with the decision of awarding the center’s management to the out-of-state provider since medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is now an option at the Wilmington site.
“Coastal Horizons has a proven record of working with patients prescribed MAT,” the Sept. 7 news release stated. “Our Board of Trustees fully supports our President and CEO Margaret Weller-Stargell and trusts her nearly four decades of experience working for and leading Coastal Horizons Center…”
As far as future plans for Coastal Horizons, Weller-Stargell recognizes that she and the organization are strategic in looking at what the needs of the community they serve are.
Additionally, they strive to address those needs when they can but shy away from taking on anything risky. Weller-Stargell said that Coastal Horizons doesn’t take on more than they believe they can appropriately manage.
“It’s important to know that we have the appropriate infrastructure to be able to manage that care that we want to provide,” Weller-Stargell said. “We certainly want to home in and continue to make sure that we’re providing the best quality of services in all of those counties we serve. As we see other identified needs, and that is something we can take on, then we will.”
Editor Vicky Janowski contributed to this story.
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT + INNOVATION SP ARK 2022 28 LIVE OAK GROWTH SPURT 34 MISSING PIECES 40 TOP PROJECTS 43 TOOLS OF THE TRADES ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT 69 SOFTWARE STARTUPS 72 IN PROFILE: ULKU CLARK 74 FEEDING FRENZY INNOVATION wilmington bizmagazine.com FALL 2022 27
BY CECE NUNN | PHOTOS BY MADELINE GRAY
28 W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE LIVE OAK BANK ENTERS A NEW CHAPTER OF EXPANSION IN WILMINGTON
CALCULATED GROW H
BOLSTERED BY INVESTMENT RETURNS AND NEW ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVES, ONE OF WILMINGTON’S ONLY PUBLICLY TRADED COMPANIES IS POISED TO CONTINUE EXPANDING ITS FOOTPRINT AND WORKFORCE FOR YEARS TO COME.
Construction could start before the end of the year on the fourth building at Live Oak Bank’s expansive campus in midtown Wilmington, as the online-only financial institution works to add more than 200 employees over the next five years.
The bank’s success since its founding in the Port City about 15 years ago by James “Chip” Mahan III was built through SBA lending to niche industries.
To Huntley Garriott, the number of small businesses in the U.S. – about 30 million, 6 million of which have revenues of $500,000 to $5 million – means the bank’s growth will continue. In turn, he anticipates that growth will fuel a prosperous future.
Garriott, who was appointed president of the bank in 2018, said Live Oak’s future is evolving. The SBA is “still a big piece of our lending, but we’ve diversified beyond that, and so we have programs through the USDA, which is a parallel program in terms of being government-guaranteed, and we do conventional lending like other banks, and a lot of the growth we’re looking at is really more on the deposit side.”
He also said, “With everything that we have planned as it relates to how we build and how we’re going to go to market, we think we’re just getting started.”
+ WINNING INCENTIVES
Local municipalities and the state of North Carolina are supporting Live Oak’s efforts to grow through economic incentives.
In September, local and state leaders traveled to Live Oak’s campus, tucked into a wooded 100-acre site off Independence Boulevard, to announce that Live Oak is
LIVE OAK BANK PRESIDENT HUNTLEY GARRIOTT
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the recipient of a $1.5 million Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG). The grant is based on Live Oak’s five-year plan to invest $25 million in growing its campus and hiring 204 more employees who will be paid an average salary of more than $101,000 – close to twice as much as New Hanover County’s average yearly wage of $53,421.
The bank currently employs about 900 people, including 694 in Wilmington, and has benefited from county and city of Wilmington incentives in the past as it added second and third structures to its campus, which crews started to build on Tiburon Drive in 2013.
But that’s not the end of the bank’s impact on the Wilmington workforce when it comes to higher-paying jobs.
Banking software firm nCino spun off from Live Oak in 2011, growing to fill its own campus in Wilmington’s Mayfaire office park. Publicly traded nCino (Nasdaq: NCNO) has grown to employ at least 700 people in Wilmington and is valued at $4 billion.
Live Oak Bancshares (Nasdaq: LOB), the parent company of Live Oak Bank, debuted on the Nasdaq in 2015,
reporting in the second quarter of this year a loan and lease portfolio worth $7 billion and a net income of about $97 million, or $2.16 per diluted share.
Live Oak Ventures, investment arm of Live Oak Bancshares, “realized a $121 million gain when exiting Finxact earlier this year, as well as $61 million in cash and noncash gains in Greenlight Financial Technology since Live Oak’s first investment in 2018,” according to a news release. “Live Oak holds investments in 11 portfolio companies with a total estimated implied market value of approximately $150 million, excluding Payrailz, as of June 30, 2022.”
+ TALLYING UP THE WORKFORCE
Developing a fintech workforce has come with challenges.
In May, a federal judge dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed against Live Oak and Apiture after approving a settlement agreement with a former employee.
The companies agreed to pay a combined $4.65 million, which will be shared among 1,925 class members.
The case revolved around the allegation of a no-hire agreement among executives of Live Oak Bank, Apiture and nCino.
According to a Greater Wilmington Business Journal article, the suit alleged that a “gentleman’s agreement” effectively suppressed wages for eligible employees.
The companies have declined to comment on the matter. According to the May article, nCino had not engaged in any settlement negotiations and had denied the allegations in court.
Despite that dispute, local officials anticipate Live Oak will continue to play “a significant role” in growing the tech workforce and attracting more tech firms to the area, said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.
Garriott said the latest incentives will support Live Oak in its recruiting efforts, in addition to helping the bank grow its campus. Other local funding is set to help foster more tech workers: On Aug. 16, the Wilmington City Council approved awarding $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to launch DigitalBridge Wilmington, described by the city as “a
FROM LEFT: LIVE OAK BANK OFFICE LOBBY, FITNESS CENTER,
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partnership working with employers to create a modern digital upskilling, re-skilling, and job-pairing program.”
Garriott said Live Oak officials are “excited about the work that the city and we and other employers are doing on this tech talent pipeline development. I think that’s a key piece of this … for the jobs that we think are coming, especially technology-related jobs.”
Cape Fear Collective, a social impact organization that grew from and is supported by Live Oak Bank, “will oversee the Talent Pipeline Management, evaluation of services and inform curriculum and program development for DigitalBridge Wilmington,” a city announcement stated in August.
+ COMMUNITY IMPACT
Live Oak Bank launched Channel, an inclusive small business center in downtown Wilmington, late last year.
“This year, it’s all about building trust, because in a minority community, trust did not exist when it comes to banks … ‘you can’t get loans,’ ‘no one wants to give you anything,’ you know, all of those things that you
hear from the minority community,” said Chakema Clinton-Quintana, vice president of inclusive small business for Live Oak Bank, who leads Channel. “Since we opened Nov. 15, 2021, we’ve spent a lot of time talking with people, meeting the business owners where they are and understanding their needs. But most of all, just the relationship piece of it.”
Referring to Channel and Cape Fear Collective, Saffo said Live Oak isn’t “myopic. They’re looking outward, not looking inward. They don’t just care about their footprint; they’re looking at the overall city and the overall region. What can we do to improve the lives of citizens? What can we do to improve Wilmington? And you know, you don’t get that from every company.”
Channel aims to help small business owners find the resources they need to stay on a path of growth, a path that is often riddled with barriers, officials said.
Business owners of varying levels – from those who just came up with an idea for a venture or those who already have a limited liability company and in-between – have been
using the resources at Channel, where both Clinton-Quintana and inclusive small business coordinator Jamar Jenkins are two of the main people helping to guide them.
The goal is to show small business owners, some of whom might want to open a storefront or buy their places of business, “the pathway to the right capital” and scale in a sustainable way, Clinton-Quintana said.
Channel client Franchon Francees is the founder of Healing Your Almond, a leadership development program named after the almondshaped portion of the brain called the amygdala.
“The amygdala is responsible for telling you whether you’re physically or emotionally safe or not. I specialize in that part of the brain,” said Francees, who is also a licensed clinical mental health counselor and a certified trauma practitioner and trainer.
On a weekday at the end of August, Francees used one of the office spaces at Channel to work on Healing Your Almond. During an unscheduled interview catching her between appointments, Francees was candid
CAMPUS RESTAURANT, CHAKEMA CLINTON-QUINTANA AT CHANNEL, LIVE OAK BANK OFFICES
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about what she’s gleaned from the small business center.
“Channel has helped me because Wilmington is a not-great place for people of color. It’s specifically not great for very confident women of color,” she said. “So there has been no place in Wilmington that I felt comfortable other than my home until I met Jamar and Chakema from Channel.”
+ INDUSTRY IMPACT
Live Oak has attracted plenty of notice outside Wilmington.
“They’ve certainly changed the way bankers look at their business and their processes because they are so unique,” said Peter Gwaltney, president and CEO of the N.C. Bankers Association. “Whether it’s
the way they originate loans and work with their borrowers across 50 states with automation and the processes and software that they use to how they work with the SBA, USDA, for government guaranteed lending.”
He fields questions about the company from other bankers while traveling to conferences and meetings.
“They’re just so interested and curious about their model and the innovation that they’ve brought to the industry,” Gwaltney said.
He also noted Live Oak’s connections to investments in new companies in Wilmington and beyond.
“They have been quite the incubator for fintech firms that are focused on providing services to banks to make banks more efficient,
more effective, more profitable, to help banks provide better customer service, whether it’s on the deposit side or the loan side,” Gwaltney said.
“Most of the companies that they have invested in and helped incubate have been very successful.”
Garriott said he expects Live Oak to continue on a course of fostering other companies as well as working toward its own expansion goals.
“I would say at a high level, we continue to see growth opportunities (in Wilmington),” he said. “We’ve continued to enjoy great success hiring people here in Wilmington; it’s still the headquarters … We love finding people here in this local community and attracting people to come here. Both of those are still mission central.”
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MIS S I N G
PIE C ES
WHAT DOES THE REGION NEED TO PROSPER?
BY JOHANNA F. STILL | ILLUSTRATION BY MARK WEBER | PHOTO BY ALLISON JOYCE
THE CAPE FEAR REGION’S PERKS ARE HARD TO IGNORE: MILES OF BEACHES, A PICTURESQUE RIVERFRONT, GROWING UNIVERSITY, PERCOLATING FILM AND TECH SCENE AND MORE.
But what is the area missing? What pieces from the proverbial regional puzzle are out of reach, keeping the area from achieving greater economic prosperity?
Area leaders cite a suite of regional deficits. Some obvious themes emerge, such as affordable housing or funding for major transportation projects. Leaders and experts also point to less-discussed pitfalls, including the region’s dwindling middle class or the desire for more direct flights.
This spring, New Hanover County received an updated economic development report – a refresh of Garner Economics’ much-cited 2014 study that the county commissioned
then to take an outside view of the area.
Drafted by Robin Spinks and Mary Lilley of Greenfield Development, the newest report’s title, “Economic Mobility,” is a nod to the weakening ladder to the middle or upper class.
“The middle-income population and jobs are shrinking, and as a result, the lower-income employees have no pathway up the ladder and can’t afford to live here,” Spinks said recently. “And if the lower-wage workers can’t afford to live here, the road congestion issue only gets worse over time.”
One pathway to rebuild the middle class and enhance economic mobility is to strengthen the weakened manufacturing sector, the report suggests.
“We need manufacturing to make that happen,” Spinks said.
The number of manufacturing jobs available in the tri-county area has dipped over time, from nearly 12,000 in 1991 to about 7,100 last year, according to N.C. Department of Commerce data. These jobs tend to provide middle-class opportunities, Spinks said.
An immediate action to tackle missing middle-income jobs is to preserve existing industrial zoning and future potential job sites, according to
Lilley, who co-authored the report, said her “missing piece” for the area is a working waterfront – New Hanover County’s, like others along the East Coast, is vulnerable to residential and retail encroachment.
“New Hanover County is unique as a location because of the port and the potential for additional working waterfront locations to support offshore wind projects and other water-based industry,” she said.
But the stretch of land ripe for that kind of development – the west bank of the Cape Fear River south of the Isabel Holmes bridge – has lately piqued multiple interests. Residential and retail developments (mixed-use apartments, hotels) have already been proposed, as have conservation uses. At a crossroads for how to handle the competing ideas for this high-interest land, the county has held two public information sessions this year to garner feedback on how the area gets developed, considering even widescale rezonings of the space.
Spinks and Lilley suggest this area’s predominant zoning designation (heavy industrial) remains in place to promote job-creating, water-based commercial activities.
“Once (land) gets used for something else other than industrial,
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you’ll never get it back,” Spinks said.
With the May provisional lease of the Wilmington East Wind Energy Area off the coast of Bald Head Island, two companies – TotalEnergies Renewables USA and Duke Energy Renewables Wind – are in the early stages of planning offshore wind farms. Though any construction is at least eight years out, the Wilmington riverfront area is ripe for a slew of manufacturing and research opportunities that require water access, economic analyses show.
“Many projects looking along the East Coast want waterfront or wateraccess sites to provide the operational flexibility this growing energy sector will require over the next 20 to 40 years,” Lilley said. “No working waterfront is an extremely limiting factor for certain (offshore wind) companies.”
Rapid growth has brought in new money and investments, necessitating major upgrades. Between 2010 and 2021, the tri-county region grew 20%, reaching an estimated 436,000 people, per the latest U.S. Census.
Growth isn’t the only story those numbers tell: The retirement-age population is climbing as a youth exodus is afoot. In New Hanover County, the under-18 population dropped from over 47,000 to about 41,000 from 2010 to 2019, according to Spinks.
“Future workforce could be an issue, and already companies are having difficulty recruiting and maintaining younger employees,” she said.
Mouhcine Guettabi, regional economist and University of North Carolina Wilmington associate professor, said it would be wise for the region to try to retain more of the university’s graduates. “Right now, Wilmington is an exporter of talent,” he said.
Wilmington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Natalie English said she’d like to see funding
for creative partnerships that connect the needs of area employers to local education institutions’ curriculums. Wilmington would “benefit from new funding to match enrollment growth and capital needs for our educational institutions from pre-K through university,” English said.
Asked for their take on the area’s missing pieces, leaders’ most common response, according to several interviews, was transportation funding.
Perhaps the most obvious symbol of this shortfall (other than sitting in traffic) is the aging Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. Built in 1969, the bridge is safe but antiquated, according to N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) officials, who say it has too many expensive parts to continue maintaining at the current rate. A replacement is needed – a reality leaders have long understood – but no real solution has emerged, amid less-than-ideal funding options. Latest estimates put a replacement cost between $241 million and $900 million.
Spinks described the bridge’s replacement as “the most critical longterm infrastructure issue” the region faces, especially considering the more than 42,000 out-of-county commuters that use it daily for work.
The crux of the replacement standstill is a lack of money. As cars become more fuel efficient and electric vehicle use is projected to rise, NCDOT has seen its primary revenue source –gas taxes – dwindle while construction
costs have soared. The bridge’s chances at obtaining funding via the traditional public funding mechanism (by which local projects must compete with others statewide) are dismal. The low odds have prompted officials to consider the possibility of introducing a toll to help pay for it.
The prospect has divided local leaders. One faction believes adding tolls would be unfair, considering it would financially burden daily commuters and how few other tolls exist statewide. Another is willing to explore tolls in lieu of making no progress as the bridge ages.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, who falls in the former group, said, “I just don’t think it’s fair to the city of Wilmington.”
THE MIDDLE-INCOME POPULATION AND JOBS ARE SHRINKING, AND AS A RESULT, THE LOWERINCOME EMPLOYEES HAVE NO PATHWAY UP THE LADDER AND CAN’T AFFORD TO LIVE HERE.
ROBIN SPINKS co-author of the Greenfield Development’s “Economic Mobility” report
36 W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE
“We knew 20 years ago that this was going to be an issue,” he said. “In preparation of this bridge replacement, I think the state could have done a much better job in anticipating and planning for it.”
English, who has spent over a year publicly campaigning for a replacement in speaking engagements, named it among high-need infrastructure investments the chamber sees as its top priority.
“Investments in roadways would improve traffic flow at our major intersections making it easier for both goods and people to move freely,” English said.
Last year’s federal Bipartisan
to the cost increases, to continue providing a safe, efficient, connected and reliable transportation system, our state will need a long-term, sustainable investment strategy.”
The lack of transportation funds affects more than just the bridge –NCDOT’s financial crises have also prompted delays in high-priority projects across the region.
A recent WMPO congestion management analysis found in general, travel times have improved since 2019, attributable to fewer vehicles on the road and more flexible commuting times due to remote work. But still, bottlenecks remain.
Guettabi said infrastructure investments should be high on the regional want list. “Quality of life is a major reason why people move to the Wilmington area and improving traffic flow, reducing congestion and making streets more walkable could go a long way towards attracting and retaining more people,” he said.
Guettabi also said a serious assessment of the housing landscape is needed, as is a push to increase the housing supply.
Asked what he’d spend hypothetical snap-your-finger money on, Saffo said transportation. “The No. 1 thing that we hear from our citizens on surveys is transportation,” he said.
Infrastructure Law and Gov. Roy Cooper’s latest state budget were “welcome news and big steps toward modernizing transportation funding,” according to NCDOT spokesperson Lauren Haviland.
Plus, for the first time, the state budget carved out some sales tax revenue to be attributed to NCDOT – a move toward establishing a more reliable funding source.
“Like most industries across the country, the transportation industry is being impacted (by) unprecedented labor and material challenges and associated cost increases,” Haviland said. “While these funding sources will help us delay fewer projects due
Citing tourism – whereby outof-towners must pass through the city to reach the three beach towns in New Hanover County – and daily commuter traffic, Saffo said visitors’ heavy use of the road system adds to the maintenance burden. “Don’t get me wrong, I like it. But it also takes a toll on our infrastructure,” he said.
By most accounts, Wilmington International Airport (ILM) has had a big year: teeming business activity with ground lease revenue projected to double, a new airline and several expansion projects underway.
But its status as a small regional airport – and the reality of locals
Robin Spinks (left) and Mary Lilley, authors of the Greenfield Development’s “Economic Mobility” report produced for New Hanover County, shown at Maritime West Development
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Homeownership is the primary way families break the cycle of poverty. By completing urgent safetyrelated repairs, WARM helps homeowners remain in their homes so they can pass their investment on to their family.
booking flights out of Raleigh or Myrtle Beach to save cash – can also be seen as an impediment to larger business growth.
Saffo said connecting flights – often to Charlotte Douglas International Airport – can function as a disincentive for business investment.
“When you’ve got to go to Charlotte and get on a puddle jumper to get to Wilmington, that extra little leg creates a little bit more cost, time and it just makes it easier for companies that are in larger cities with a lot more direct flights and options to get more business,” he said. “It’s always been an issue for us.”
This summer, ILM’s first low-cost carrier, Avelo, launched nonstop flights to Orlando, Baltimore and New Haven and announced Ft. Lauderdale as an upcoming seasonal destination.
Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, used to advertise the new flights in each of the initial three markets, helped sweeten the deal for Avelo. “That was a big incentive that we never had before,” Bourk said.
Direct flights to Miami, Nashville, Philadelphia, Detroit, Denver and a revived route to Chicago land on Bourk’s wish list of destinations that make sense for ILM. “L.A. is one of our higher unserved markets. But it’s a long haul. The longer the haul, the more expensive it is to operate, and the higher the risk it is for the airlines,” he said. “So I don’t know that we’ll get a carrier to fly across the country. I don’t know if we’re big enough for that yet.”
Pierre Naudé, the CEO of nCino, which employs about 830 in the Wilmington area, cited the fintech company’s community investments in youth sports and hunger relief efforts as examples of engaged corporate citizenry.
“It’s incumbent on Wilmington’s corporate citizens to help the region grow and enable the community to thrive,” Naudé said.
Airport director Jeff Bourk said that based on transportation and mobile data collected by ILM consultants, Fort Lauderdale is the area’s “No. 1 underserved market.” Trying to lure new airlines and destinations is an ongoing task, according to Bourk, who started the role in January. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve met with every airline.”
ILM staff crunch numbers to prove to airlines why they should add new routes to and from Wilmington.
An extra pot of $375,000 in marketing funds from the New
Connectivity infrastructure investments are at the top of Naudé’s missing list. “Looking ahead, it will be essential to focus on 5G and fiber optic to support knowledge workers’ need for high-speed internet and to attract more high-tech companies like nCino to the area,” he said. “By prioritizing and promoting these investments, I believe that Wilmington will continue to attract and retain top talent and be a great place to live and work.”
Another fintech leader, Live Oak Bank President Huntley Garriott, said the community should amp up its existing assets.
“Strong economies are fueled by diverse companies, well-paying jobs, robust educational and training systems and attractive environments where residents thrive,” he said. “It takes all of these aspects to turn the dial on what we already have in place. It’s simply time to turn up the volume.”
Homeownership can change the future for a family.
LIKE MOST INDUSTRIES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, THE TRANSPORTATION INDUSTRY IS BEING IMPACTED (BY) UNPRECEDENTED LABOR AND MATERIAL CHALLENGES AND ASSOCIATED COST INCREASES.
LAUREN HAVILAND NCDOT spokesperson
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PROJECTS TO WATCH
Across the region, major infrastructure projects and upgrades are underway or in the planning stages.
Many of the projects are meant to accommodate the region’s growth, but some are designed around a specific mission, such as ensuring residents have contaminantfree water to drink or redirecting truck traffic at the port to railroads to reduce carbon emissions.
Whether it be port, airport, water or transportation improvements, hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds are being expended to complete these massive projects.
BY JOHANNA F. STILL
After years of preparation, state contractors broke ground on the much-anticipated, nearly 13mile Hampstead Bypass in March. The estimated $429 million N.C. Department of Transportation project was split into two sections, A and B, to help it secure the state funding necessary to build the costly roadway.
State officials predict that the project, once complete, will reduce traffic traveling on U.S. 17 in Pender County by half. The first $185 million leg that Conti Civil LLC is constructing spans 7 miles and includes road improvements to U.S. 17 and a new roadway that connects east of N.C. 210. This section is anticipated to open to traffic in 2026, according to an NCDOT spokesperson. Improvements on the existing roadway include raised medians and redesigned safety features.
Work on the second leg, which will connect west of N.C. 210 to Interstate 140, is expected to begin in late 2026 and open in 2030.
Though $176 million has been spent on property acquisitions so far since 2018, right-of-way work for both sections still isn’t complete, according to the transportation spokesperson.
The Port of Wilmington is growing, continually adding to its existing lineup. Port officials have several capital projects underway, including an $18 million project made possible due to a federal grant announced in August to upgrade the port’s rail infrastructure.
Redirecting cargo traffic from truck to rail with the planned improvements will help reduce emissions and improve efficiencies, according to port officials. Once complete, the rail upgrades will help divert an estimated 250,000 containers from truck to rail over the next decade. Planning work is currently underway, and the project is expected to be operational by 2025.
Work on the second phase of the port’s refrigerated container yard expansion is also ongoing. This $22.6 million phase will add 704 new plugs to the yard on the heels of the 540 plugs added in 2020 through the first $14 million phase. Electric plugs allow refrigerated cargo to remain cool while awaiting shipment.
An abundant perishable export market filled the first phase of plugs quickly, according to port officials, necessitating an accelerated second phase schedule. This latest phase is expected to wrap up next year and will bring the port’s plug total to 1,479.
40 W ilmington B iz MAGAZINE PROJECTS
The region’s raw water supplier, Lower Cape Fear Water & Sewer Authority, landed $23.5 million from the latest state budget. The funding is planned to cover the bulk of the cost of installing a 10-mile pipeline to cross under the Cape Fear River that would run parallel to an existing older line.
Last fall, a leak in a section of that older line alerted the authority to a system vulnerability that could leave the region without adequate water capacity. So local officials passed resolutions and got state regulators to partially fund a project to install a second line, which would begin at Brunswick County’s Northwest Water Treatment Plant and eventually cross under the river before it reaches Pender County.
Tim Holloman, LCFWASA’s executive director, said the project was still in the planning stage. Because the state’s award covers less than half of the $54 million project cost, Holloman said the authority is re-evaluating and discussing phasing or obtaining alternative funds.
In a separate LCFWASA project that finished this spring, local utilities spent $37.3 million to install a 14-mile pipeline stretching from Riegelwood to Brunswick County’s Northwest Water Treatment Plant; this was also a parallel line that runs next to the older one.
Wilmington International Airport passed a major milestone early this year with the opening of its newly lengthened 77,600-square-foot terminal with three new gates. Then came news of a planned hotel on the ILM Business Park premises, and in June, ILM landed its first low-cost carrier with Avelo.
Of ILM’s three-phase, $75 million terminal expansion project, $55 million has been completed, according to airport spokesperson Erin McNally. Several components of the third phase of expansion work, estimated to be complete by spring 2023, are still under construction, including an “exit lane, renovation of the baggage claim area, as well as remodeling of the rental car area and the original gate area,” McNally said.
Other capital improvements are in the works, including a $10-million ramp project that’s 50% done with completion planned for the end of the year. A new common-use system, which is a technology that allows multiple carriers to utilize the same gate infrastructure at different times, will also be running by spring 2023.
Curb improvements, added parking, roadway realignment and general aviation infrastructure improvementscould also be in the pipeline.
Cape Fear Public Utility Authority’s water treatment project is a few months behind schedule, officials said.
Initially, customers in the Wilmington area were told to expect to turn on their taps and receive water nearly completely free of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and other contaminants by this summer.
But delays caused by labor shortages and supply chain issues prompted the longer wait time, CFPUA shared in an Aug. 10 update.
The $42 million project at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant includes eight deep-bed granular activated carbon (GAC) filtration systems, which will each rid raw water sourced from the Cape Fear River of contaminants before sending it out to customers. The expansive project was necessitated by emerging contaminants discovered in the river, notably GenX, the trademarked chemical by Chemours, which has a manufacturing plant in Fayetteville that historically released unregulated discharges into the river.
Only four of the eight GAC filters, CFPUA shared, need to be online to provide full PFAS treatment, which should occur prior to December.
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TOOLS OF THE
LABOR SHORTAGES AND HIGHER DEMANDS FOR SERVICES HAVE PROMPTED COMMUNITY COLLEGES TO BROADEN THEIR EFFORTS TO TRAIN A GROWING WORKFORCE
by JENNY CALLISON
The path to a fulfilling and lucrative career doesn’t necessarily lie through a fouryear college degree program – and it might not even require a two-year associate’s degree or a student loan. That’s the message local community colleges are trying to communicate to the public these days.
“The cost of university tuition and housing increases by 50% every 10 to 15 years, which is a higher rate than inflation and family income,” said Greg Bland, vice president for Continuing Education, Economic &
Workforce Development at Brunswick Community College. “I don’t see these rising costs changing anytime soon. The average person has $35,000 in student loan debt. This has become a national concern.”
The recent labor shortage affecting a cross-section of fields has highlighted the strain industry leaders have warned about for years, from health care to skilled trades.
For years, high school counselors have advised students that a four-year college degree is their key to a middleclass, financially secure future, said Jim Morton, president of Cape Fear Community College.
“We’re still seeing that,” he said. “So we’re taking a long-term approach because employers are desperate for labor.”
That approach means spreading the word early and often that many well-paying careers can be launched with short-term programs at the community college level. Fearing that, for high schoolers and their parents, this message might come too late, Morton and his workforce training staff are targeting middle school students.
This summer, CFCC held what officials called Career Academy for students at Williston Middle School
photo c/o CFCC
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Students in CFCC's electrical lineworker course practice at the community college's utility pole yard.
photo by T.J.DRECHSEL
and West Pender Middle School, which provided transportation for the students. They were “phenomenal,” according to Erin Easton, CFCC’s workforce training coordinator.
“We want (middle schoolers) to have an awareness of what careers are out there. Not everybody understands what viable career paths are in our backyard,” she said. “We had over 200 students from West Pender and Williston. Our short-term and degree programs really opened their eyes and interested them in taking advantage of some programs, even in high school.”
Career Academy participants worked directly with instructors, who introduced them to a variety of career options, from phlebotomy and medical tech to building trades. Over the course of the summer program, participants were exposed to 16 or 17 skilled trades, Morton said.
“They were excited and wanted to come back,” he said. “They could imagine themselves doing these things.”
CFCC will stay in touch with these students and keep them on track, Morton said.
It’s not just young people the community college wants to attract. Morton is an advocate for Cape Fear’s Pathway Home 2 program. Funded by a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, this program connects people transitioning from prison or jail to job training and support services. The goal is to reduce recidivism and improve employment outcomes for people who have been incarcerated. CFCC’s partner in this program is the Wilmington-based nonprofit LINC Inc., whose mission is to help the formerly incarcerated make successful transitions back into society.
In addition to its array of skilled trades training courses that give students the basics but often require further on-the-job training, CFCC offers several apprenticeship programs.
One example is an Electrical Apprenticeship program, which saw
its first four participants graduate as journeyman electricians in April. Another 50 participants are in the process of completing the four-year program, which incorporates 8,000 on-the-job training hours and 624 hours of classroom-related instruction, said John Downing, CFCC’s vice president of Economic & Workforce Development.
Between its regular skilled trades curricula and its apprenticeship programs, CFCC can prepare a student for a great variety of careers from truck driving to nursing to plumbing and pipefitting.
“We currently have over 100 electrical apprentices that work during the day and go to school at night,” Downing said. “At the same time, we have over 50 electrical students in our degree program. These 50 students have the option to participate in the apprenticeship program as well.
“In the automotive program, we have 23 dealers that are participating employers. Our automotive students will be apprenticed by these 23 dealerships or repair shops. We have pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship (programs) in automotive, electrical, plumbing, lineworker and fire alarm technician. Some of these are new programs just getting started.”
An example of a preapprenticeship program, which provides the classroom portion of job training, is CFCC’s 10-week electrical lineworker course.
Employers can hire those who complete the course and give them company-specific, hands-on experience. Duke Energy is a major employer of these graduates and benefits from the pre-apprenticeships, Morton said.
“This helps Duke avoid washout from new hires who might be afraid of heights, dislike working outdoors in bad weather or (might) be afraid of wildlife encounters,” he said. “We handle the washout in our program.”
Typically, Morton said, 99% of graduates of the lineworker preapprenticeship program leave with a
job. The program’s incoming class has 47 students.
There is plenty of demand for electrical lineworkers and a desire for a diverse workforce, said Duke Energy spokeswoman Logan Kureczka.
“This year, Duke will hire 200300 lineworkers in the Carolinas,” she said. “We have enough to perform the work now but are recruiting for future projects as we build out our smarter grid so we can provide more reliable and resilient service and cleaner energy.”
ERIN EASTON CFCC workforce training coordinator ”
An apprentice lineworker earns at least $45,000 a year, with pay increasing as the worker gains skills and experience. The top classification – journeyman – earns well into six figures, according to Kureczka.
“We work with 10 community colleges across North Carolina,” she added. “There is a lot of state and local funding that covers the costs of training.”
Other programs also offer financial assistance for students. Brunswick Community College touts its free trades pathways and the credentials they offer, BCC’s Bland said.
“Local business owners are continuing to donate scholarships for people that want to join the skilled trades profession,” he said. “These residents, whether they are donating $500 or enrolling (in the courses
WE WANT (MIDDLE SCHOOLERS) TO HAVE AN AWARENESS OF WHAT CAREERS ARE OUT THERE. NOT EVERYBODY UNDERSTANDS WHAT VIABLE CAREER PATHS ARE IN OUR BACKYARD.
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themselves), have my respect and admiration. Our local economy is built on their work.”
Bland pointed out one example: A lucrative career in climate control that results from the dynamic growth of Brunswick County.
“Building permits confirm that the population of our county is continuing to grow at a rapid pace. Brunswick County has grown 34% during the last decade and has approximately 89,000 homes,” he said. “The salt air, along with normal wear and tear, creates a steady flow of work and income. In just a few moments, potential students can calculate the cost of labor, the cost of a new HVAC unit and (the number of) our existing homes. The income potential is simply staggering.
“Brunswick Community College has continued to award hundreds of industry-recognized (HVAC) credentials so that graduates rise to the top of the hiring process,” Bland added.
This same local growth data, he said, places electrical technicians, lineworkers, plumbers, code enforcement professionals and carpenters in high demand. Often,
participants in relevant training programs at BCC can graduate without student debt.
“I want young people to understand that they have our support if they decide to avoid that debt,” Bland said.
Manufacturers are also expressing their urgent need for trained workers. The Cape Fear Manufacturing Partnership, launched in 2021, has grown to include 38 local employers, according to CFCC’s Easton, who is the group’s convenor.
“At the (partnership’s) last quarterly meeting there was a focus on increasing the awareness of high school students and their parents about programs at CFCC and other community colleges,” she said.
In response to feedback from the Cape Fear Manufacturing Partnership, CFCC recently created a 12-week introductory course, manufacturing technician, that teaches students about safety, OSHA requirements, lean manufacturing concepts and forklift operation, so they know what to expect as they walk onto the floor of a manufacturing plant for on-the-jobtraining. Two students from the initial
class have been hired, Easton said.
Next up at CFCC, she added: a machining application training course, a 12-week program that prepares participants for entry-level machining jobs.
Community college support for skilled trades training extends past the classroom and hands-on experience.
There also are programs to help those who have learned a trade start their own businesses. Small Business Centers at Brunswick Community College and Cape Fear Community College, headed by April Scott and Jerry Coleman, respectively, offer free courses on business ownership and individual counseling.
“The pathway to small business ownership at Brunswick Community College is free, and it has never been more convenient,” Bland said. “Our small business center director, April Scott, is available at any of our locations, Monday-Friday. We encourage students to schedule time with April at the mid-point of their course experience if they intend to own their own business in the future. Last year, April helped 24 new businesses get started.”
photos c/o CFCC
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2022 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE | MARKETING SECTION
local event venues witness strong demand
In-Person Gatherings are Preferable to Many
BY FRITTS CAUSBY
A s the saying goes, ‘p eople want to work with people they know,’ and in many cases, there is simply no easier way to make this happen than getting together in person. Aside from helping to establish stronger connections and a more robust corporate culture, in-person meetings can be powerful tools for collaboration and the sharing of ideas.
Of course, the fact that many are still experiencing a substantial sense of pandemic fatigue has only added to the demand for in-person gatherings. “It feels like people are much more comfortable gathering now, as we are seeing an increase in team building, birthday celebrations,
bridal showers and high school reunions,” said Brookes Musser, owner of Capt'n Bill’s Backyard Grill and Volleyball Facility.
“Much like the experiences of most in the industry, the past several years have been more dynamic than any period of my 20year career in Wilmington hotels and hospitality," said Melissa Bucci, director of sales and marketing for Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront. “In less than three years, we have gone from 2019, which was a great year for our hotel and city, through the depths of the COVID restrictions and shutdown, and now to a day of nearly all of those restrictions fading.”
The pivot to face-to-face events has also been spurred by the notion that it is easier to interpret nonverbal cues in person. Getting together in person also
drastically reduces the potential for misunderstandings, which often occur with text messages and emails.
“We are doing lots of contracts every day,” said Lee Campbell, director of meetings and events for the Cape Fear Realtors. “But most are short-term contracts as many are not willing to book out much farther than six months.”
This is largely a response to the constant changes in regulations and mandates related to the pandemic. Having to cancel an event at the last minute that has been carefully planned for is a huge disappointment for both event planners and facilities.
Considering the significant amount of time, effort and funds it takes to adequately prepare, it is easy to see why many are unwilling to mark a date on the calendar for something long term.
512022 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE | MARKETING SECTION
The desire to regain a sense of normalcy is strong, however. But what is normal today represents an evolution in the event planning industry, the result of lessons hard won during the pandemic. Being flexible and ready to adapt to changing guidelines and recommendations from the CDC has been one of the most important takeaways for event planners and local facilities.
“People need us to be flexible and adaptable,” said Campbell. “We have listened to what others have gone through in terms of canceling
and many workplace experts agree that engaging in small talk can be a viable way to not only strengthen and build new relationships, but also share ideas that may benefit the company.
Likewise, discussing a significant problem whether personal or sensitive to the company over a Zoom call could potentially be viewed as a disastrous idea to many. One reason may be that people view the notion of being recorded as abhorrent, and believe that it is much less likely to occur in person.
clear and this has significantly increased the demand for this type of event, many believe that using technology as a means of providing an option for a virtual meeting experience is not going away. If the pandemic had any lesson for event planners and businesses, a key takeaway would be centered on the importance of learning and investing in the latest hi-tech virtual meeting technologies.
“The meeting industry will not return to in-person meetings only,” explained Campbell. “Hybrid
and adapting their guidelines.”
With the uptick in flexibility and understanding related to deposits and guidelines, the demand for short-term events has increased significantly. “We have already booked our first holiday party in our taproom and foresee being booked out the entire month of December with lots of private events,” noted Musser.
Holiday gatherings are an aspect of event planning that illustrates the advantages of getting together in person. Though participation in a holiday party over a Zoom call would likely seem laughable to many, it is worth pointing out that advanced technology was an essential stopgap during the throes of the pandemic.
Regardless, it is hard to imagine engaging in small talk before or after a virtual presentation. In a Zoom call or virtual event, there is a stronger tendency to view engaging in small talk as an unnecessary distraction. Asking someone about their day or how their projects at work are going just feels more natural in person,
However, many prefer virtual meetings to the in-person experience. For them, the thinking is that virtual gatherings eliminate the necessity of dealing with traffic and other hassles associated with physical meetings. The fact that virtual meetings have a reduced ecological footprint compared to in-person gatherings is another argument that holds weight for many.
Although the advantages of getting together in person are
management will continue as a staple in the planning process forcing planners to offer both an in-person and virtual option during the registration process, so it’s important to take steps now to be prepared.”
The events venue at Capt'n Bill’s may be better prepared than some for this ‘new normal’ that is focused on the need for adaptability. “Since we offer both indoor and outdoor facilities, we can cater to various groups, but the overall consensus is that people are looking to mingle and enjoy time with one another,” added Musser.
Bucci echoed the sentiment, stating that, “Cumulatively, the pentup demand for travel and events, the rapidly growing population of our city and region, the drivability from our feeder markets and the efforts of our sales team have resulted in unprecedented bookings at our hotel. Today, we are converting bookings at a previously unmatched pace, at more competitive rates, and significantly farther in advance than ever before.”
“We have already booked our first holiday party in our taproom and foresee being booked out the entire month of December with lots of private events.”
- Brookes Musser, Owner, Capt'n Bill's
52 2022 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE | MARKETING SECTION
At the Embassy Suites by Hilton Wilmington Riverfront, our versatile meeting space is the perfect setting for any group—from business to pleasure, fun to formal, and serious to social. We look forward to assisting you in creating a memorable event in our space.
2022 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE | MARKETING SECTION Wilmington Riverfront
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The Cape Fear region is bustling with activity, and it shows in the number of unique coastal, downtown and upscale venues available for a variety of public and private events as well as the service companies that help pull those events together. The following is a sampling of venues and services in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties.
128 SOUTH 910.399.1709
Open floor plan that includes a river-view deck, as well as a second-floor mezzanine overlooking the central lower level. Hotel accommodations available at the adjacent Stemmerman’s Inn.
In-House Catering Capacity:180
THE ATRIUM BY LIGON FLYNN 910.777.9701
Nestled between historic buildings, this open-air garden with natural foliage and brick walkways is available for weddings, concerts, benefits and other private events.
Outside Catering Capacity: 200 BAKERY 105 910.399.1709
Bakery 105 is a historic wedding and event venue located in Downtown Wilmington, NC. The building dates back to the 1920s when it was part of the American Bakeries complex (hence the name).
Outside Catering Capacity: 200 Onsite Parking: No
BATTLESHIP NORTH CAROLINA 910.399.9100
World War II-era ship and museum that offers the outside fantail overlooking the Cape Fear River and two interior rooms for private events.
Outside Catering Capacity: 300 Onsite Parking: Yes
Get out of the office with a corporate outing at Battle House in Wilmington! Focus on team goals and accomplishments rather than individual results. 90 minutes of heart-racing fun for the whole family! Throw the best party or corporate event in town!
Capacity: 40 Onsite parking: Yes
BELLAMY MANSION MUSEUM 910.251.3700 bellamymansion.org
Antebellum mansion open to the public and available for private events, with access to a choice of interior rooms, porches and exterior grounds and gardens.
Outside Catering Capacity: 150 Onsite Parking: Yes
THE BROOKLYN ARTS CENTER & THE ANNEX 910.859.4615 brooklynartsnc.com
Historic repurposed church with 60foot cathedral ceilings, a stage and a refurbished 1910 onsite schoolhouse (the annex).
Capacity: 400 Onsite Parking: No
BURGWIN-WRIGHT HOUSE AND GARDENS 910.762.0570 burgwinwrighthouse.com
Lush gardens and charming courtyard provide a uniquely beautiful setting for private events, such as weddings, wedding receptions, corporate functions, dinners and cocktail parties. Seven distinct areas on four different levels.
CFCC WILSON CENTER 910.362.7999 wilsoncentertickets.com
State-of-the-art performance space with options to rent the main hall, lobby or both areas.
Outside Catering Capacity: 1,559 Onsite Parking: Yes
CFCC UNION STATION 910.362.7488 cfcc.edu
Top-floor event space with views of the Cape Fear River, an open-air terrace and multimedia capabilities.
Outside Catering Capacity: 400 Onsite Parking
CITY CLUB OF WILMINGTON 910.343.1880 cityclubofwilmington.com
Nineteenth century mansion with terraced gardens, onsite suites and salon services, as well as an event planner and serving staff.
In-House Catering Capacity: 200 Onsite Parking: No
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EMBASSY SUITES BY HILTON WILMINGTON RIVERFRONT
H otel along the riverfront that includes a banquet hall for large events, as well as meeting spaces. Offers onsite event planning coordinators.
In-House Catering Capacity: 300 Onsite Parking: Yes
END OF DAYS DISTILLERY
C lose to historic downtown and located in the charming Cargo District, both the distillery and tasting room are housed in a refurbished historic Quonset hut, circa 1940s.
Outside Catering Capacity: 120 Onsite parking: Yes
Located in Wilmington’s up-and-coming Soda Pop District, the bright, fun and game-heavy 7,920 sq. ft. taproom originally served as a car dealership.
Outside Catering Capacity: 317
Onsite Parking: Yes
HOTEL BALLAST 910.763.5900 hotelballast.com Boasts the largest ballroom on the Wilmington waterfront, as well as a
second, smaller ballroom, meeting spaces and a bridal suite.
In-House Catering Capacity: 1,000 (grand ballroom) Onsite Parking: Yes
910.769.0290 ironcladbrewery.com Restored 1925 building in the heart of downtown Wilmington with modern industrial design, an onsite brewery, multiple bars and serving staff.
In-House Catering Capacity: 300 Onsite Parking: No
In the heart of the Soda Pop District, Jengo’s Playhouse is a funky, yearround community venue featuring a 70-seat cinema and a full service craft cocktail bar that opens up directly to larger creative campus.
In-House Catering Capacity: 69 Onsite parking: Limited
WATERLINE BREWING COMPANY
Waterline Brewing Co. operates in a rehabilitated section of the old Jacobi Hardware warehouse located on Surry Street, just under the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. This wonderful old structure has a great history.
Outside Catering Onsite Parking: Yes
WAREHOUSE ON WATER
Our 6,000 square foot venue provides our guests with the flexibility to welcome a myriad of different events and layouts. Couple this space with our wharf styled deck and this venue is only limited by your own imagination.
Onsite Parking: No
STATION NO. 2 919.749.0330 stationno2.com
T he 1915 firestation offers an unpretentious yet sophisticated event center perfect for weddings, rehearsal dinners, corporate parties and any kind special occasion.
Outside Catering Capacity: 80
Onsite Parking: No
WILMINGTON WATER TOURS 910.338.3134 wilmingtonwatertours.net
E xplore the Cape Fear River on one of our many cruises! We offer private charters for wedding receptions, corporate functions, birthdays and family reunions.
Outside Catering Capacity: 49
Onsite Parking: Yes
WILMINGTON CONVENTION CENTER
The Wilmington Convention Center is the largest, boutique convention center on the North Carolina coast – the ideal backdrop with historic charm and riverfront views of the Cape Fear River. It’s everything you need to create lasting and memorable experiences! We’re the perfect venue for an intimate meeting or grand event.
In-House Catering Capacity: 1,750 (exhibit hall)
Onsite Parking: Yes
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58 2022 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE | MARKETING SECTION Wilmington’s Premier Corporate & Event Venue Just like the views, atmosphere, and location, the venue features we offer at the Terraces on Sir Tyler are unmatched in Wilmington. For more information and to check availability, please call 910-473-5550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org TerracesOnSirTyler.com 4,000 sq. ft. Ballroom 1085 sq. ft. Rooftop Terrace Caterer Prep/Service Kitchen Complimentary Wi-Fi Complimentary Tables & Basic Chairs (Upgraded Chairs Extra) Audio Visual Available Complimentary Parking Lot Small Meeting Space Classroom for 38 Guests Conference Room for 20 Guests On-site Meeting & Planning Resources
wrightsville beach & mayfaire
Wedding ceremonies and receptions, birthday parties, wedding and baby showers, family reunions and corporate events. Four distinct event spaces including Oak Lawn, Bradley Creek Lawn, Pergola Garden and Bottle Chapel Lawn.
Outside Catering Capacity: 300 Onsite Parking: Yes
BLOCKADE RUNNER BEACH
Wrightsville Beach hotel with allwaterfront rooms, an outdoor patio bar and the EAST Oceanfront Dining restaurant. Offers five rooms, as well as garden and lawn space, for private events, and “The Cottage,” a 13-room suite with common areas for reunions and corporate retreats.
In-House Catering Capacity: 300 (largest room)
BLUEWATER WATERFRONT GRILL 910.256.8500 bluewaterdining.com
Restaurant and event space along the Intracoastal Waterway serving casual American fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Includes a banquet room and a meeting room.
In-House Catering Capacity: 250 Onsite Parking: Yes
Fine dining establishment on the Intracoastal Waterway with a board room and private events room.
In-House Catering Capacity: 200
COUNTRY CLUB OF LANDFALL 910.256.8411
Clubhouse within the gated community of Landfall that provides multiple locations for a variety of events, as well as onsite event coordinators, handcrafted menus and an in-house pastry chef. Rooms are available for rent, as well as the entire clubhouse. In-House Catering
Capacity: 800 (Entire Clubhouse) Onsite Parking: Yes
HILTON GARDEN INN WILMINGTON 910.509.4046 hilton.com
Hotel in Mayfaire Town Center that features an onsite restaurant, outdoor pool and 1,750-square-foot meeting space just ten minutes from both Wrightsville Beach and downtown.
In-House Catering Capacity: 90 (Meeting Room) Onsite Parking: Yes
HOLIDAY INN RESORT LUMINA WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH 910.256.2231 ihg.com Oceanside resort with family-themed activities, outdoor and indoor pools, hot tubs and a wading pool. Features six banquet rooms.
In-House Catering Capacity: 300 Onsite Parking: Yes
NEW HANOVER COUNTY ARBORETUM 910.798.7660 arboretum.nhcgov.com Seven-acre public garden available for private events. Facility rental includes a fully equipped indoor kitchen, auditorium, outdoor grill and performance space for musicians. Outside Catering Capacity: 150
OCEANIC RESTAURANT 910.256.5551 oceanicrestaurant.com Coastal-inspired oceanfront restaurant on Crystal Pier serving brunch, lunch and dinner. Includes a large classroom/ meeting room. In-House Catering Capacity: 250
SHELL ISLAND RESORT 910.256.8696 shellisland.com Family-friendly full-service luxury resort on the northern tip of Wrightsville Beach with indoor and outdoor pools, a tiki bar, onsite restaurant, private beach access and banquet and event rooms. In-House Catering (Limited) Capacity: 300 (Largest Room) Onsite Parking: Yes
W ilmington’s premier corporate & event venue. Just like the views, atmosphere and location, the venue features we offer at the Terraces on Sir Tyler are unmatched in Wilmington. Outside Catering Capacity: 250+ Onsite parking: Yes
WRIGHTSVILLE MANOR AND GARDENS 910.508.7224 wrightsvillemanor.com Indoor-outdoor event venue located near the gateway to Wrightsville Beach on a 1.25-acre property between Lumina Station and St. Matthews historic brick church that features a patio veranda, gardens and lawn space, as well as a catering prep room and service area. Outside Catering Capacity: 300 | Onsite Parking: Yes
Yacht Source provides year-round charters with options to cruise the waterways, plan day trips to specific locations, and host private or corporate events. Outside Catering Capacity: 13 Onsite parking: Yes
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ON SIR TYLER
YACHT SOURCE, LLC
60 2022 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE | MARKETING SECTION Wilmington Brewing Company’s New Taproom! For People Who Drink Good Beer For People Who Drink Good Beer 910-769-0293 800 S Kerr Ave WilmingtonBrewingCompany.com Events@wilmingtonbrewingcompany.com
Eleven-story oceanside condominium complex offering unique one- and twobedroom suites with private balconies available for nightly, weekly or monthly rentals. Amenities include indoor and outdoor pools, a gazebo with a grilling area and a club room for meetings and events.
Outside Catering Capacity: 60 (Meeting Room)
BEAU RIVAGE GOLF & RESORT 910.392.9021
Golf clubhouse near Carolina Beach with more than 6,000 square feet of versatile space between five rooms. Resort offers onsite lodging, banquet facilities, various views of the course, and a poolside tiki bar and a hardwood dance floor.
In-House Catering Capacity: 350
CAROLINA BEACH LAKE PARK carolinabeach.org 910.458.2977
Eleven-acre freshwater lake near the ocean that is the site for public events throughout the year, including a weekly farmers market, the annual Pleasure Island Chowder Cookoff and free outdoor movies. Kayak and paddleboat rentals available, as well as rental of a picnic area and gazebo.
CAROLINA BEACH STATE PARK 910.458.8206
ncparks.gov/carolina-beach-state-park Campsite and marina with onsite cabins, hiking trails and a classroom and auditorium available for half- and full-day rental.
Capacity: 65 (Auditorium)
COURTYARD CAROLINA BEACH 910.458.2030 marriott.com/hotels
Beachside resort on the Carolina Beach Boardwalk with flexible event space, newly remodeled hotel rooms and suites, a restaurant and indoor and outdoor pools.
FORT FISHER AIR FORCE RECREATION AREA 910.458.6549
Site available to active duty military, disabled veterans, reservists and Department of Defense civilians that includes event space, an onsite restaurant and bar and an outdoor swimming pool.
In-House Catering Capacity: Call For Details
FORT FISHER STATE HISTORIC SITE 910.251.7340
nchistoricsites.org/fisher Remaining portions of the Civil War's largest amphibious battle that includes scenic trails, the adjacent Visitors Center & Gift Shop and oceanfront gazebos. Available for public and private tours, as well as weddings and private events.
Outside Catering Capacity: 350
HAMPTON INN & SUITES CAROLINA BEACH OCEANFRONT 910.707.1770 hilton.com/en/hotels/ilmhahx-hamptonsuites-carolina-beach-oceanfront/ Beachside hotel next to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk with an oceanfront pool and space for small weddings and meetings.
Outside Catering Capacity: 50
KURE BEACH COMMUNITY CENTER 910.458.8216
townofkurebeach.org Approximately 2,300-square-foot building a block from Ocean Front Park. Includes a kitchen area with a serving island for catering, a separate meeting room and large banquet room.
Outside Catering Capacity: 100 (Banquet Room) Onsite Parking: Yes
KURE BEACH OCEAN FRONT PARK AND PAVILION 910.458-8216 townofkurebeach.org The park's expansive, open-air pavilion is also available for private rental, excluding the months of July and August and major holidays.
Onsite Parking: Yes
LAZY PIRATE SPORTS GRILL 910.458.5299
Restaurant and bar in Carolina Beach with a casual atmosphere and outdoor seating. Offers space to accommodate events of all sizes, as well as a customizable menu.
In-House Catering Capacity: Call For Details Onsite Parking: Yes
N.C. AQUARIUM AT FORT FISHER 910.772.0500 ncaquariums.com/fort-fisher
Offers partial- or full-rental options, as well as onsite childcare and touch tank access for after-hours events and behindthe scenes tours for daytime events.
Outside Catering Capacity: 350 Onsite Parking: Yes
OCEAN FRONT PARK & PAVILION 910.458.8216 townofkurebeach.org
Kure Beach’s largest public green space located near the Kure Beach Fishing Pier. Features an open-air pavilion with a stage for concerts, weddings and events, as well as a children’s play area and public restrooms.
Outside Catering Capacity: 75
SEAWITCH CAFE & TIKI BAR
Carolina Beach restaurant offering a casual event space for both indoor and outdoor events. Offers a full event catering menu that includes hors d'oeuvres, entrees, buffets and pasta and taco bars. In-House Catering Capacity: 150
THE PEARL AND THE PETAL 910.524.1251 thepearlandthepetal.net 1930s standalone building with a groundfloor event space, upstairs preparation room and lighted patio. Offers flexible packages based on specific events.
Outside Catering Capacity: 175
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BURNEY CENTER AT UNCW
More than 9,000-square-foot ballroom on the campus of UNC-Wilmington with modern sound and lighting system and a catering prep kitchen. The ballroom can be configured five different ways to include banquet and auditorium seating.
In-House Catering Capacity: 1,000 (Auditorium Seating); 600 (Banquet Seating)
Onsite Parking: Yes
CAMERON ART MUSEUM 910.395.5999 cameronartmuseum.com
Historical and contemporary art museum with rotating indoor and outdoor exhibits and permanent collections. The facility includes a reception hall with multimedia capabilities, a courtyard, a conference room, a roof terrace and an onsite café, which can be rented for smaller events.
In-House Catering Capacity: 200 (Reception Hall)
Onsite Parking: Yes
CAPT'N BILLS BACKYARD GRILL 910.762.0173
M ultiple event locations in one place, including outdoor spaces with a more casual atmosphere, or an indoor space that can host up to 100 people.
In-House Catering Capacity: 100 Onsite parking: Yes
FLYING MACHINE BREWING CO. 910.769.8173 flyingmachine.beer Our taproom features over 30 taps of beer,
wine and cider, rotating food trucks, both an indoor bar and patio bar with outdoor seating and second story patio.
Capacity: 250 | Onsite Parking: Yes
HAMPTON INN WILMINGTONMEDICAL PARK 910.796.8881 hilton.com
Centrally located accommodations that includes a business center, a fitness center, an outdoor pool and a conference room for business meetings.
Outside Catering | Capacity: 150
THE VENUE AT WILMINGTON BREWING COMPANY
T he Venue at Wilmington Brewing Company offers 5,000 square feet of event space with an outdoor patio and garage doors for open air entertaining.
Capacity: Based on Availability Onsite parking: Yes
WARWICK CENTER AT UNCW 910.962.4150 uncw.edu/campuslife/services UNCW’s largest multiuse event space, with additional smaller meeting rooms. The Warwick Center Ballroom can be configured for auditorium-style seating or set up for a banquet.
In-House Catering Capacity: 600 (Auditorium); 320 (Banquet) Onsite Parking: Yes
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH BREWERY 910.256.4938 wbbeer.com
Wrightsville Beach Brewery serves up fresh, local seafood and craft beer in their brewpub and beer garden.
In-House Catering Capacity: 60 (The Barrel Room) Onsite Parking: Yes
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BALD HEAD ISLAND CLUB
Clubhouse on Bald Head, an island only accessible by passenger ferry or private boat, that offers banquet facilities, conference rooms, an expansive lawn for outdoor events, and a terrace space.
In-House Catering Capacity: 250 Onsite Parking: No
THE BARN AT ROCK CREEK 910.253.4012 thebarnatrockcreek.com
Event facility on 13 acres in Leland that provides a rustic farm setting. Facility rental includes dining and banquet tables, an antique farm table, a handcrafted bar and access to all indoor and outdoor grounds.
Outside Catering Capacity: 150 Onsite Parking: Yes
CAPE FEAR YACHT CLUB capefearyachtclub.com
Clubhouse is available to rent for weddings, receptions, private parties, luncheons,
meetings, seminars and other events. Facility includes kitchen area and bar; private lakeview; spacious landscaped lawn; and wraparound deck.
Outside Catering Capacity: 99 | Onsite Parking: Yes
HAMPTON INN & SUITES BY HILTON SOUTHPORT 910.477.9830
Full-service hotel with outdoor pool, gym and a fire pit. Minutes away from Dutchman Creek Park, historic downtown Southport, area beaches and golf courses. Meeting facilities include full audio-visual, Wi-Fi for company meetings, training sessions, continuing education programs.
Outside Catering Capacity: 50 Onsite Parking: Yes
MAGNOLIA GREENS GOLF PLANTATION 910.383.0999 magnoliagreensgolf.com
Golf course clubhouse in Leland that includes 1,600 square feet in banquet
space for weddings and other private functions. Facility provides tables, chairs, linens and table settings, as well as set up and break-down.
In-House Catering Capacity: 75
ODELL WILLIAMSON AUDITORIUM 910.755.7416 bccowa.com
Auditorium and performance space located on the campus of Brunswick Community College in Bolivia. Adjacent Virginia Williamson Event Center is available for smaller events.
Outside Catering Capacity: 1,500 (Auditorium); 95 (Event Center)
Onsite Parking: Yes
SILVER COAST WINERY 910.287.2800 silvercoastwinery.com
Locally owned winery in Ocean Isle Beach offering rental of the vineyard, private patio and lawn and its interior Barrel Room, as well as the Art Gallery for smaller events.
Outside Catering Capacity: 130
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The “FUN” Cruise Boat for: Private Charters Corporate Events Team Building Mix & Mingles Holiday Parties We customize events to meet our customer’s needs. www.wilmingtonwatertours.net
Trip Advisor Travelers Choice Award 2022
HAMPSTEAD WOMEN’S CLUB
910.270.9549 hampsteadwomensclub.org Facility available for rental for a variety of events that includes use of the catering kitchen, outside patio space, portable speakers and furniture. Offers two spaces – the main building and the smaller O’Hara Room for more intimate gatherings.
Outside Catering Capacity: 140 (Main Building); 30 (O’hara Room)
Onsite Parking: Yes
HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TOPSAIL ISLAND
The society’s Assembly Building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, includes a catering kitchen, dance floor and two smaller rooms featuring views of the water and the sunset.
Outside Catering Capacity: 250
OCEAN’S EDGE RESTAURANT & EVENT CENTER
Located at the tallest point on Topsail Island, which allows for panoramic views of the sunset and waterfront. Full-service venue that includes custom packages and an onsite coordinator.
In-House Catering Capacity: 300
NORTH SHORE COUNTRY CLUB
910.327.2410 northshoregolfcoursenc.com Clubhouse on the green at North Shore Golf Course in Sneads Ferry available to rent for weddings, banquets, meetings and private parties. Private meeting and dining area with a full-service bar, dance floor and Wi-Fi available.
Outside Catering Capacity: 150
OLDE POINT COUNTRY CLUB 910.406.1419 oldepointgolf.com
Meeting, wedding and banquet facility on a scenic 18-hole public golf course with Bermuda fairways and Paspalum greens. Located just off Highway 17 with easy access to Wilmington, less than 15 minutes to Surf City beaches. Three separate meeting venues. Wi-Fi available. In-House Catering Capacity: 50/80/120 Onsite Parking: Yes
POPLAR GROVE PLANTATION 910.686.9518 poplargrove.org Peanut plantation-turned-museum in Scotts Hill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, that can accommodate a variety of events in in its museum facility and on the plantation grounds. Outside Catering Capacity: 150
THE SURFSIDE CENTER AT THE SURF CITY WELCOME CENTER 910.328.2716 surfcitync.gov Oceanfront setting that includes an outside ocean-facing patio and access to the beach. Is not equipped with an audio system or speakers. Outside Catering Capacity: 300 Onsite Parking: Yes
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RIVER LANDING 910.285.4171 riverlanding.com With onsite accommodations, topnotch event staff and fine cuisine paired by our Executive Chef, you have the makings of a perfect event. Our southern hospitality and charm are beyond compare, and we look forward to bringing your vision to life. In-House Catering Capacity: 300
Anna Taylor Photography 8 Unique Venues | 60,000 Square Foot Clubhouse | Luxury Suites & Cottages Two Top 40 Golf Courses | Riverfront Amenities | On-Site Catering Prepared By Award Winning Chef & So Much More! www.RIVERLANDING.com
Shallotte, NC 910.755.6642 artcateringevents.com
BEAUCHAINES 211 Surf City, NC 910.328.1888
CASEY’S BUFFET Wilmington, NC 910.798.2913 caseysbuffet.com
MIDDLE OF THE ISLAND CATERING Wilmington, NC
MILNER’S CAFÉ & CATERING Wilmington, NC 910.350.8899 milnerscafeandcatering.com
OCEAN RIDGE CATERING Ocean Isle Beach, NC 910.287.1713 oceanridgecatering.com
PINE VALLEY MARKET Wilmington, NC 910.350.3663 pinevalleymarket.com
COASTAL CATERING AND EVENTS
Southport, NC 910.845.2516 coastalcateringandevents.com
Shallotte, NC 910.754.8680 coastlinecateringnc.com
DIAMOND CATERING Wilmington, NC 910.399.3811 diamondcateringservices.com
GOURMET TO GO & CATERED AFFAIRS LLC Southport, NC 910.505.9336 gourmettogosouthport.com
LITTLE POND CATERERS Wilmington, NC 910.960.7663 littlepondcaterers.com
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Station No. 2 is a unique, boutique-style venue with both indoor and outdoor spaces; including an overnight stay upstairs in the Historic Firehouse Suite. Wilmington’s Most Unique Historic Venue Weddings | Rehearsal Dinners | Celebrations StationNo2.com | 919.749.0330 602 S. 5th Avenue | Wilmington, NC 28401 Max seating inside at tables: 80 | Exposed brick & tin ceilings | Free parking ADA accessible venue | Dog friendly | Vendors list available or BYO Bar packages available or BYOB | 80 Chiavari chairs & 20 tables included Daily rates or full weekend package available SERVICES DIRECTORY CHICKEN SALAD CHICK Wilmington, NC 910.679.8126 Leland, NC Coming Soon chickensaladchick.com NOTHING BUNDT CAKES Wilmington, NC 910.679.8797 nothingbundtcakes.com
SALT AND CHARM
Wilmington, NC 910.769.1010 eat.saltandcharm.co
SAWMILL CATERING COMPANY Wilmington, NC 910.620.7001 sawmillcatering.com
SPOONFED Wilmington, NC 910.679.8881 spoonfedkitchen.com
SURF CITY BARBECUE AND CATERING Surf City, NC 910.328.4227 surfcitybbq.com
SWEET BAY CATERING
Bald Head Island, NC 910.457.7450 maritimemarketbhi.com/ Catering.aspx
A THYME SAVOR CATERING AND MARKET Wilmington, NC 910.262.2962 athymesavor.com
B LOSSOM BAY DESIGN Wilmington 704.975.1800 blossombaydesign.com
BLOOMERS FLORAL DESIGNS Ocean Isle Beach, NC 910.575.4000 bloomersnc.com
BRUNSWICK TOWN FLORIST Southport, NC 910.457.1144 brunswicktownflorist.net
CALABASH FLORIST & COMPANY INC. Calabash, NC 910.579.8030 calabashflorist.webs.com
CREATIVE DESIGNS BY JIM Burgaw, NC 910.686.9000 creativedesignsbyjim.com
DESIGN PERFECTION Wilmington, NC 910.512.4145 designperfectionnc.com
ECO CHIC BLOSSOMS Wilmington, NC 910.617.3864 ecochicblossoms.com
EDDIE’S FLORAL GALLERY Wilmington, NC 910.791.0990 eddiesfloralgallery.com
FIORE FINE FLOWERS Wilmington, NC 910.791.6770 fiorefineflowers.com
FLORA VERDI Wilmington, NC 910.815.8585 bloomersfloraldesignsnc.com
GREEN THUMB FLORAL BOUTIQUE Wilmington, NC 910.742.0185 greenthumbfb.com
JULIA’S FLORIST Wilmington, NC 910.395.1868 juliasflorist.com
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MOTHER OF WILD
Wilmington, NC 910.319.7334 motherofwildflowerhouse.com
Shallotte, NC 910.754.4848 shallotteflorist.com
SWEET NECTAR’S FLORIST Leland, NC 910.371.2224 sweetnectarsflorist.com
SURF CITY FLORIST Surf City, NC 910.328.3238 surfcityflorist.com
WILD BY NATURE Southport, NC 910.363.5032 wildbynaturellc.com
WINE & ROSES FLORIST Southport, NC 910.457.4428 wine-roses-florist.business.site
VERZAAL’S FLORIST & EVENTS Wilmington, NC 910.791.1756 verzaalsflorist.com
A ZALEA LIMOUSINE SERVICE
Wilmington, NC 910.452.5888 azalealimo.com
BLUEWATER TRANSPORT Wilmington, NC 910.208.0057 bluewatertransport.net
CAPE FEAR LIMO & COACH LINES Wilmington, NC 910.679.4339 Charterbusnc.com
CAROLINA CLASSIC CAR RENTALS Wilmington, NC 919.366.5222 carolinaclassiccarrentals.com
COASTAL EVENT SHUTTLE Wilmington, NC 910.685.7871 coastaleventshuttle.com
DANIELS TOURS LLC Wilmington, NC 910.763.6070 danielscompany.com
EASY WAY LIMO & TRANSPORTATION SERVICE
Sunset Beach, NC 910.713.8294 easywaytransportsvc.com
LETT’S LIMOUSINE SERVICE Wilmington, NC 910.231.7645 lettslimo.com
PRESTIGE LIMOUSINE Wilmington, NC 910.799.4484 prestigelimousineservice.com
VIP LIMO OF WILMINGTON Wilmington, NC 910.264.4343 viplimowilmington.com
3 CHEERS PARTY RENTAL Southport, NC 910.448.1002 3cheerspartyrentals.com
ACOUSTIC CREATIONS INC. Leland, NC 910.371.2038 acousticreations.com
AUDIO VISUAL EQUIPMENT RENTAL Wilmington, NC 910.341.0045 avscoastal.com
Wilmington, NC 910.790.0324 avalive.com/nc/Wilmington/av-rentalsservices
BEHIND THE SOUND Wilmington, NC 443.854.2741 behindthesoundav.com
CAROLINA STRAND Wilmington, NC 800.772.0349 carolinastrand.com
EZAV Wilmington, NC 910.500.6258 ezav.biz
FILMWERKS INTERNATIONAL INC Rocky Point, NC 910.675.1145 filmwerksintl.com
J & S AUDIO VISUAL Wilmington, NC 910.202.3160 jsav.com
K2 PRODUCTIONS Wilmington, NC 919.341.5111 k2proevents.com
SOUND WAVE AUDIO Wilmington, NC 910.794.2858 soundwaveaudio.com
N ORTH CAROLINA’S BRUNSWICK ISLANDS
Shallotte, NC 910.755.5517 ncbrunswick.com
PENDER COUNTY TOURISM Burgaw, NC 910.259.1278 visitpender.com
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672022 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE | MARKETING SECTION
START SOFT WARE ups
BY JOHANNA CANO
THEY MIGHT NOT ALWAYS REALIZE IT, BUT FROM THE MOMENT THEY CLOCK IN OR CHECK THEIR WORK CALENDAR OR VIEW THEIR PERFORMANCE INDICATORS, MANY WORKERS ARE INTERACTING WITH SOFTWARE THROUGHOUT THEIR DAY.
As technology permeates all aspects of everyday living, software is being designed to keep up with the digitization that many workflows have experienced as well as take advantage of the efficiency that automation can provide.
A growing number of the region’s software companies share similar birth stories involving an industry professional finding a gap or need for software to make their jobs easier or better streamlined. After coming up with a digital product that accomplished such tasks, these entrepreneurs took their solution and launched a startup that seeks to solve pain points for their industries.
From hotels to breweries to public safety, here is a roundup of some of the Wilmington-based startups bringing software into the workplace by finding their industry niches.
AREA COMPANIES ARE BUILDING THEIR PLATFORMS AROUND FIXING SPECIFIC INDUSTRY WORKFLOW PROBLEMS.
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LAB LOGS ELECTRONIC
PAPER LOGS ARE USED IN LABORATORIES TO TRACK MAINTENANCE OF EQUIPMENT AND QUALITY CONTROL TESTS, a task that must be done daily and that overwhelmed Jeremy Sikorski, a lab manager at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center.
To solve this burden, Sikorski contacted Daniel Summers, a software engineer, who came up with a digital, standardized product for eliminating paper logs.
The two partnered and formed Electronic Lab Logs, which has a cloud-based platform that provides laboratory maintenance.
“Electronic records are now the preferred method for documentation, and we are poised to capitalize on that,” Summers said.
Among the functions the platform can do are tracking maintenance and quality control tasks for laboratory instruments. It also provides real-time device status and helps labs avoid getting cited for missing logs or incomplete data by simplifying the process.
Founded in 2018, Electronic Lab Logs hopes to expand its product to also serve other adjacent markets. The company, which received the third-place award in the inaugural NC BIONEER Venture Challenge last year, earned a Coastal Entrepreneur Award in health care in 2020. That same year, it also won a $50,000 grant from the NC IDEA SEED program.
AS A FORMER FIREFIGHTER WITH THE WILMINGTON FIRE DEPARTMENT, Scott Monroe had firsthand experience with organizational management required for such public safety institutions.
To provide a solution to handle these tasks, Monroe founded Essential Personnel, a performance management and wellness software for public safety agencies in 2020. The software-as-a-service application provides three pillars of solutions: EP Perform, Safety & Wellness and Academy.
The Perform function provides performance evaluation, team organization and tracking of qualifications and certifications, as well as feedback. The Safety & Wellness feature helps track incidents, injuries and exposures and provides access to support. Academy provides online training for continuing education.
In May, Essential Personnel won a grant from the NC IDEA SEED program, which at the time Monroe said would be used to scale and expand its sales effort. This year, the company was selected as one of six startups to present at the Startup Showcase, a competition during the State of Technology Conference in Raleigh. The competition included companies with an innovative digital solution.
It’s urrently being used in several states, and Monroe said the company is ready to scale.
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MANY HOTELS AND RESORTS ARE STILL RELYING ON ANTIQUATED CORD PHONES TO COMMUNICATE WITH GUESTS, MAKING THE communication between guests and hotel workers not as streamlined or efficient as it could be.
This is a realization that Jose Quiros made during a hotel stay and the catalyst to starting F3TCH, a mobile app that guests can use to connect with their hotel for services and amenities. This field was not new for Quiros, who previously worked at a large guest room telephone manufacturer and had years of experience with telecommunications companies.
With the app, guests can talk to their hotel from anywhere and anytime through voice, text and photos.
Hotel workers can use it to communicate with guests and consolidate their services as well as interlace their rewards programs in the app. Quiros began the startup in 2019 and has participated in the Out-Pitch 2.0 pitch contest by Out lander VC.
Quiros, a self-taught software developer, described his goals of capturing a large number of hotels to use F3TCH in the next five years.
IN ADDITION TO CRAFTING BEER, BREWERIES ARE TASKED WITH TRACKING PRODUCTION – FROM BARRELS AVAILABLE TO WHAT IS sold – and projecting sales based on past performance.
But there are few software tools on the market available for this, and many of those lack key functionality, said Natalie Waggett.
This is why she co-founded and is the CEO of Ohanafy, a software startup with the Brewery Management System, described as an end-to-end craft beverage management software.
Designed to be used by anyone working at a brewery, the platform is housed in Salesforce and includes a management feature with information on inventory, equipment maintenance, raw materials, suppliers and more. It also has a team management component for employees to look at goals and get performance feedback.
The startup, made up of University of North Carolina Wilmington graduates, has been working with brewery advisers including Tarboro Brewing Co. and Wrightsville Beach Brewery to get feedback. Launched this year, the company has six employees and is looking forward to intentional growth.
A LEADER AMONG UPAND-COMING SOFTWARE STARTUPS IN THE REGION IS VANTACA, WHICH IS IN THE PROCESS OF DOUBLING ITS WORKFORCE.
The company was started by Dave Sweyer, who developed a software solution for his business Community Association Management Services (CAMS).
Vantaca was born when Sweyer realized the opportunity to expand the product to other organizations with similar needs as CAMS.
Vantaca is a software that helps manage different aspects of homeowner associations and has expanded to fintech with its full banking integration.
The software provides customized workflows and reports; communication tracking with staff, board members, homeowners and more; and monitoring of billing, user, service provider and homeowner activity – all including mobile access.
In 2021, the company announced it had received local incentives to allow a $5 million expansion that would include adding about 100 employees to its existing workforce. Most recently, the startup showed 1,000% growth over a three-year period (2018-21), according to the Inc. 5000 list.
Led by CEO Ben Currin, the company expects continued growth with Currin saying recently that the company is “just getting started.”
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BY BETH A. KLAHRE |
PHOTO BY MICHAEL CLINE SPENCER
ULKU CLARK FOCUSES ON HELPING FILL THE CYBERSECURITY WORKFORCE GAP
Most everything today relies on computers and the internet, from email communications and smartphones, video games, social media and online shopping to medical systems and records. Cybersecurity is the burgeoning art of protecting computer networks, devices and data from unauthorized access and the practice of ensuring confidentiality, integrity and availability of information.
Ulku Clark is an information systems professor at University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Cameron School of Business and director of the university’s Center for Cyber Defense Education. Fifteen years ago, Clark recognized the rising importance of cybersecurity. It spurred her to create courses at UNCW and develop a student cybersecurity club with computer science professor Ron Vetter.
There are more than 700,000 cybersecurity job openings in the United States, according to CybserSeek, an online tool that tries to connect employers and job seekers.
“Unfortunately, this number is growing every year. UNCW and many other academic institutions are doing our best to overcome the workforce shortage problem,” Clark said.
UNCW offers six cybersecurity programs that graduate cybersecurity professionals with skills ranging from managerial to technical. Any UNCW student can couple his or her degree with a cybersecurity minor and become an interdisciplinary cybersecurity
professional. The university is also in the process of proposing a new cybersecurity concentration for the business school and a new concentration in maritime cybersecurity.
After completing her undergraduate degree in Turkey, Clark obtained a doctorate in management science with a management information systems (MIS) concentration from University of Texas at Dallas.
“I found the continuous change in technology intriguing. And MIS is a great intersection of the business world and computers,” she said.
Even as a child, Clark had an interest in solving tough problems.
“As a young kid, I loved puzzles. Some aspects of cybersecurity require you to put the pieces together and figure out what causes an issue or stop something bad from happening,” she said.
Clark’s job hunt after graduation led her to UNCW. “I accepted an offer because I wanted to be close to the beach,” she recalled. Clark has taught full time at UNCW for 17 years. This fall, she is teaching cybersecurity essentials and an analytics course for the MBA program.
Clark is a founding member and current director of the Center for Cyber Defense Education (CCDE), which was launched in 2018 as part of UNCW’s effort to be designated by the National Security Agency/Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education.
Clark points to the rapid digitization of daily life as a contributor to cybersecurity policy and technical gaps.
“Every area of the economy is affected from public to private with small- to medium-sized businesses and smaller governments experiencing the most difficult gaps to bridge,” she said. The CCDE intends to address gaps while trying not to spread itself too thin, according to Clark.
The CCDE is part of a statewide cybersecurity coalition that recently received a $2 million grant from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity. Equipped with this funding, the CCDE is starting a security operation center that will
enable up to 60 cybersecurity students a year to have work-based learning experiences.
The CCDE recently offered a two-day Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) workshop to local and regional Defense Industrial Base Sector members. The workshop was designed to help smaller members understand CMMC requirements and readiness guidelines.
Clark has been expanding her reach to encourage the next generation of cybersecurity professionals. This summer, Clark and her colleague Geoff Stoker hosted a cohort of 12 high school Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps students for a six-week introduction to cybersecurity.
Clark and Stoker were also recently awarded $150,000 by the NSA to host a GenCyber Teacher Camp to equip middle- and high-school teachers with curriculum to inspire the next generation of cybersecurity defenders. Teachers will leave the program with an understanding of cybersecurity fundamentals and a portfolio of tools to incorporate into their classrooms.
In October, UNCW will host the fourth annual Cybersecurity Conference with a focus on maritime and financial technology (fintech) cybersecurity. Workshops in penetration testing and threat modeling will be offered as well as the opportunity to participate in an incident response tabletop exercise and a career workshop.
Clark said cybersecurity is important for everyone.
“That includes individuals, any size organization and government agencies,” she said. “Large organizations and government agencies are usually well protected, but we are only as strong as the weakest link. For that reason, it is essential for everyone and every little organization to have a basic understanding.
“People who personally behave in an unsecured manner and small organizations without proper training are usually the ones who lead to breaches through supply chains,” Clark added. “It’s everybody’s job to follow basic cyber hygiene practices and do their due diligence to protect themselves and their organizations.”
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local businesses cook up food & beverage innovations
BY JOHANNA CANO | PHOTOS BY LOGAN BURKE & DARIA AMATO
For Wilmington resident Jason Walter, his “need” was to enrich his diet with nutrient-dense drinks after a cancer diagnosis, and his “invention” was a beverage made from cacao fruit pulp.
When it comes to innovation, many think about university-backed research, software companies and patents for gadgets, but the region is also home to those innovating in the beverage and food industry as well as the supporting spaces that allow business owners and innovators to experiment and grow.
Walter made a career shift to nutritional product creation after being diagnosed 12 years ago with the same type of cancer that led to his brother's death. After going through intense treatment – which he described as brutal four rounds of chemotherapy and six surgeries – Walter started learning about nutrition and began making and drinking juice concoctions.
Every morning, he would go through the long procedure of making his drinks, which involved lots of veggies and other ingredients such as dandelion leaves. Walter said these drinks along with lifestyle changes helped him endure some of the most intensive treatments he underwent.
“I don’t tell people how to handle their own medical situations, that was just how I dealt with mine,” he said. “I believe it was the right move for me
because I’m still here.”
While researching and learning more about raw materials, he came across the cacao fruit and learned about its health benefits.
“I went to a chocolate bean-to-bar class for 30 days to learn everything I could learn about cacao powder and chocolate,” he said. “That was where I first got introduced to the cacao fruit, and I just became obsessed with it.”
Out of this research, bevCacao was born, which Walter describes as his flagship product. bevCacao is canned cacao juice squeezed from the pulp of the cacao fruit. Described as a “super fruit,” the drink “delivers a supreme serving of antioxidants, electrolytes and minerals,” its website stated.
Developing the product was not easy due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns and shortages that it created, but Walter was able to come up with a finished drink early this year.
While a young product, the drink has already gotten recognition from the beverage industry. In May, bevCacao was named a finalist in the Best Functional Drink category of the 2022 InnoBev Awards. Presented by Zenith Global, a food and beverage consultancy firm based in the U.K., the awards sought to recognize excellence and innovation across sectors of the global soft drink industry.
Although bevCacao did not win, being a finalist among large industry players such as Tropicana Brands Group and PepsiCo was still a great feat for the company, Walter said.
Along with bevCacao, another local innovative beverage has been
growing and distributing its products throughout the U.S. with health in mind. Wine Water is the creation of Amy and Rob Kuchar, a wife-andhusband team with years of experience in the alcoholic beverage industry who wanted to introduce a healthier wine option to the market.
“Obviously, we’re wine drinkers and living in coastal North Carolina creates a lot of opportunity to be on the beach, on the boat, by the pool –areas where drinking 12-14% alcohol by volume wine just isn’t conducive to enjoying a day with friends and family,” Rob Kuchar said.
Finding the right balance between water and wine took many tries. The Kuchars contacted winemaking partners in France and started working on more concentrated versions of French varietals that would hold up better after being blended with sparkling water, he said.
“After many iterations, we landed on a recipe that gave us the light presentation we wanted but still maintained the subtle characteristics of the wine,” he said.
Currently working with Wilmington-based Coastal Beverage Co., Wine Water products are produced in Bordeaux, France. The Wine Water line of drinks now includes the original Rosé Water, Sauvignon Black Wine Water and the Sandbar Fruit and Tropical Punch Blends.
Much like bevCacao, Wine Water is targeting health-conscious consumers.
“We believe that consumer awareness has been, and will continue to be, focused on what they’re actually putting in their bodies so we’re choosing to innovate in the cleaner, healthier, adult beverage space,” Rob Kuchar said.
ECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION” IS A PROVERB DESCRIBING THAT INNOVATION OFTEN ARISES FROM A PLACE OF NEED.
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bevCacao founder Jason Walter with a cacao pod
For Walter’s bevCacao journey, getting to know the market was made easier thanks to Wilmington being home to a large population of healthconscious people.
“One of the cool things about Wilmington is it’s a relatively healthy area, so they’re very receptive to health products,” he said.
An issue for a young company is finding the right manufacturers who are willing to produce smaller batches, according to Walter. bevCacao does not produce locally; Walter said he wishes there was a production facility in the region that he could use.
“The big problem you have when
you’re creating a product like this is you can’t be small,” he said.
From raw material suppliers that would rather sell larger quantities to larger companies to manufacturers and canning companies that would rather deal with larger volumes, finding the right partners can be difficult, he said.
For Wine Water, finding partners for the product was a matter of who could handle its sales demand.
“Due to extreme sales growth right out of the gates, we had to move to the larger winery partner to ensure that we could meet demand,” Rob Kuchar said.
While Walter and the Kuchars have delved into the world of drink creation and production, for smaller operations – from those trying out new recipes to food truck owners – having a central location for ideation and creation is important.
One local resource with the goal to harvest food innovators and support small business is the Burgaw Incubator Kitchen. Located in the Burgaw Depot, the facility includes a shared-use commercial kitchen.
When the town wanted to renovate the space years ago, the idea to install a commercial kitchen was sparked, said Cody Suggs, Burgaw’s parks and recreation director, who helps oversee the incubator.
“Its purpose was to provide space for tenants to come in that had this entrepreneurial idea in business to provide space for them to prepare these products,” Suggs said. “That has been our backbone for the last 12 years.”
The facility is open 24 hours, giving it scheduling flexibility. Tenants can prepare foods, wash dishes, conduct product development, do food prep, use fridge and pantry storage and more.
The incubator has been used as a launching pad for many businesses that can use the space to cut down startup costs. Eventually, many outgrow the space and can get their own locations. This includes chef Abbye McGee with Salt + Charm, whose business of meal prep delivery and pick-up services experienced a boost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During this time, the business got its own space at the Cargo District at 702 S. 17th St. McGee also continued to expand at the district with the opening of her and Matthew Ray’s project, The Starling Whiskey and Wine Bar.
Other tenants may be following in her steps, including up-and-coming Chris’s Cosmic Cheesecakes, which are now a staple at farmers markets, and Weezie’s Colorful Kitchen, another meal delivery service with a focus on healthy meals and sustainability.
Weezie Davenport, of Weezie's Colorful Kitchen, at the Burgaw Incubator Kitchen
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Started by Louise Davenport, the meals are free of refined sugars, flour, gluten and processed oils and are delivered in reusable glass containers as opposed to single-use receptacles.
Davenport’s mission to be sustainable has spread to the incubator where she helped bring a composting program.
Another large chunk of tenants includes food trucks, which are required by health departments to report to a commissary kitchen after service. Food trucks have seen an increase in popularity recently.
“It seems like every call that we get is ‘We’re looking to start a food truck,’ or ‘Hey, I have a food truck, and we need space,’” Suggs said.
Space seems to be a key issue for many of those in the food business, especially food trucks, said Michelle Rock, co-owner of the food truck T’Geaux Boys.
Because of health department regulations, mobile units have different requirements.
“Some counties are stricter, some counties are easier,” Rock said about regulations. “New Hanover County happens to be one of the strictest, which is good because you want them to be thorough.”
Food trucks that don’t have a brickand-mortar location must either apply to the health department to use the kitchen at an existing restaurant or a commissary kitchen.
Because of this, T’Geaux Boys, Poor Piggy’s food truck and Irv’s Signature Catering teamed up to purchase a space for use on College Road.
Rocks, who also does food truck consulting, said Wilmington is behind the times as far as food trucking goes and that opening more kitchen spaces would be one way to address the issue.
“We need a warehouse that’s nothing but a commissary kitchen. It would have to be a big one with enough equipment for several trucks to run out of,” she said.
Considering this need, a new commissary kitchen is scheduled to open this fall for entrepreneurs. Block
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Eatz, an endeavor started by Genesis Block and Cape Fear Community College, will be located at the McKeithan Center at the Cape Fear Community Campus in Castle Hayne.
“One of the pillars of Genesis Block is to lower the barriers and cost for entrepreneurs to get to the market,” Genesis Block co-founder Girard Newkirk said. “We have directly applied this methodology to support local food entrepreneurs. Block Eatz significantly lowers startup costs for chefs to launch their business, and the kitchen commissary provides space for meal preparation.”
At the food hall incubator, Block Eatz-affiliated entrepreneurs will have a six-month licensing agreement for the space with free rent, zero upfit and utilities cost, free equipment usage and the benefit of brand recognition and entrepreneur training, Newkirk said.
Block Eatz companies will share a portion of their revenue, and companies can rent kitchen commissary space for meal preparation, according to a press release.
“Food entrepreneurs,” Newkirk said, “have voiced that there is a lack of commissary kitchen space in the area, and also the startup cost for a brick-and-mortar is so high that it’s too risky for new startups.”
places for people
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The Milky Way is visible above Frying Pan Tower, a former U.S. Coast Guard tower 30 miles off the coast of Brunswick County. The light station was built in 1964 and retired in 1992. These days, the tower serves as a base for visiting volunteers, weekend adventure travelers, fishermen and divers. The tower, owned now by a group of individuals, is slowly undergoing repairs and renovations through the nonprofit FPTower Inc., which is focused on preserving the landmark.
The restoration project recently received a $25,000 boost from Amazon. Richard Neal, executive director of FPTower, said they used the donation on jet ski safety equipment – in case they need to grab a diver from the water – and to make repairs to an underwater remote-control robot, giving students views of marine life around the tower. (Neal initially bought the tower in 2010 from the Coast Guard during an auction but divested his ownership interests eight years later.)
“We have ongoing projects,” Neal said about the nonprofit’s to-do list. “Some of them are multihundreds of thousands of dollars. Some of them are $5,000 dollars. We pick and choose.”
C/O FPTOWER.ORG THE TAKEAWAY
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