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Wilmington B iz M A G A Z I N E

2021

SPARK

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT + INNOVATION

STARTUPS EXPLORE THE FUTURE OF AI HEMP’S COTTAGE INDUSTRY GETS OVER NEXT HUMP

BLUE BANKING ON

INITIATIVE AIMS TO LURE MORE JOBS & BUSINESSES THAT RELY ON THE OCEAN FALL 2021

Published by

Greater WWilmington G Published by

reater ilmington BUSINESS BUSINESS JOURNAL JOURNAL


Helping students achieve a strong educational foundation by building for success.

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Apply Today! csb.uncw.edu/grad w i l m i n g t o n b i z m a g a z i n e . c o m

u n c w. e d u UNCW is an EEO/AA institution. Questions regarding UNCW’s Title IX compliance should be directed to titleix@uncw.edu.

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“Southern Bank takes the time to understand our needs. They go above and beyond.“ Dr. Adam Brown Port City Neurosurgery & Spine

We’re big on small business. We help small and mid-sized businesses become bigger businesses. That’s what we do. While the mega banks focus on the mega corporations, we see the value in building our local businesses. How do we do it? With mega service. And with all the tools and expertise every business needs to succeed. Visit us in Mayfaire Office III, or give us a call and we’ll bring the bank to you.

Colleen Hattingh, Lenny Smith, Paul McCombie, Leon Pruzan Mayfaire Office III 6752 Rock Spring Rd. 910.256.3657

southernbank.com/wilmington


What is the

most efficient strategy for addressing our

community’s

affordable housing crisis? Hold on to what is already working! Every WARM family purchased a home with their own money; 60% have already paid off their mortgage. They just need a boost—such as a new heating system, a wheelchair ramp, or a roof—to remain in their home and preserve it for the next generation. WARM’s home rebuilding services are f ree to those who qualify. Without it, some will continue to live in unsafe or unhealthy housing, be forced to move to a shelter, or spend their f inal days in a group home. Salt Air Heating & Cooling and nCino give of their time and money to help people stay in their homes. Together, we are changing the future. Join us today!

“ Our team loves our community and working together on a WARM site to

make a home safer for a homeowner is the ideal team building activity for us. – BROOKE SKIPPER, SALT AIR OWNER AND WARM BOARD PRESIDENT

WarmNC.org / 910.399.7563 Volunteer. Donate. Share.


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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT + INNOVATION

2021

SPARK

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MAKING WAVES

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PUBLIC-PRIVATE DEALS

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INDUSTRIAL SPACE UPDATE

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ECONOMIC TRENDS

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HEMP HAPPENINGS

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AI'S POTENTIAL

2021

EVENT PLANNING GUIDE

MARKETIN G SECTION

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BIZ BITES BEHIND THE NUMBERS SOUND OFF NEWS DIGEST C-SUITE CONVO IN PROFILE: REEDS JEWELERS RESTAURANT ROUNDUP: SEABIRD TAKES FLIGHT THE TAKEAWAY

ON THE COVER

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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

Photographer T.J. Drechsel hit the water with Lee Fentress, of Seaview Crab Co. Businesses involved with aquaculture and fisheries – from commercial fishermen to seafood suppliers – make up one of the five water-focused sectors that local group The Alliance for a Blue Economy is focusing on to grow the area’s base.

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abba change the world?

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

COULD

O

ver coffee one morning, my husband and I talked about ABBA and whether the Swedish pop group might be the next big digital disruptor. “Waterloo,” “Dancing Queen,” “Mamma Mia” – that ABBA. The hit-generating supergroup formed in 1972 hasn’t released new music in 40 years. But in conjunction with its upcoming album in November, ABBA’s been working on a live show that makes the holograms we’ve seen in sci-fi movies look like kid scribble. Working with George Lucas’ special-effects company Industrial Light & Magic (yes, ILM for short), the band members spent weeks filming their songs and movements in front of 160 cameras to create something ILM Creative Director Ben Morris describes in a video about the project as “digital characters.” It involved filming the band now, whose members are all in their 70s, but recreating them in their younger, 1979 versions. “We are creating them as digital characters that we will then be using performance capture techniques to animate them and perform them and make them look perfectly real,” Morris explains. So, if you go to see the show – in an ABBA arena they’re building in London to hold the light and technology, by the way – you’re seeing digital versions of real people “on stage,” not quite avatars, not quite holograms. Something else. “… light and audio and this environment is going to be a unique space to be in, which is neither digital nor physical,” said producer Svana Gisla. Wrap your head around that. Does your brain hurt yet? The ABBA leap got my husband and I on the what-if rabbit hole. What if one day this meant the kids could talk to a digital version of grandma in a room in your house instead of a boring video call or pedantic hologram projection, seeing her expressions in real time? What if Zoom meetings (think they’ll still be around by then?) could bring everyone’s digital forms together? Would it help get over the collaboration hump with online meetings? We both agreed this would only work if

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you had the option to change your digital version’s outfits so not everyone’s digital selves show up in workleisure. What if you made your digital version look different than you really do? What if someone used your likeness without your permission? And other ethical questions that come up anytime new ways to share information arise. What if? That’s the question that drives tech advances, innovation, entrepreneurship and even smallbusiness creation. Someone asks, “What if?” and the gates open. Sometimes it makes it into the world, and sometimes ideas fall by the wayside (sometimes for good reason). We ask, “What if?” a lot at the Business Journal. The magazine you’re holding in your hands right now is the result of one of those. I won’t throw anyone under the bus by sharing the ones that haven’t seen the light of day yet. And as you flip through this issue’s pages, consider the “What if?” at the origin of many of these stories: What if we could better leverage the region’s coastal activities? What if we build more industrial buildings, will they come (yes, that’s a popular misquote of the line)? What if we turn to hemp to create businesses and jobs? So take a cue from ABBA, ask the next, “What if?” and remember, “The winner takes it all.”

VICKY JANOWSKI, EDITOR vjanowski@wilmingtonbiz.com

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Wilmington B iz

CONTRIBUTORS

M A G A Z I N E

FA L L 2 0 2 1 – $ 4 . 9 5

T. J . DRECHSEL T.J. DRECHSEL of Drechsel Photography is a Wilmington-based photographer whose work has been featured in national magazines including WILMA, Greater Wilmington Business Journal, Wrightsville Beach Magazine, and North Brunswick Magazine. He specializes in wedding and landscape photography. Drechsel shot the cover portrait of Lee Fentress, of Seaview Crab Co. and on PAGE 26. tjdrechselphotography.com

Publisher Rob Kaiser

rkaiser@wilmingtonbiz.com

President

Robert Preville rpreville@wilmingtonbiz.com

Editor

Vicky Janowski vjanowski@wilmingtonbiz.com

A s s i s ta n t E d i t o r Cece Nunn

cnunn@wilmingtonbiz.com

Reporters Johanna Cano

MADELINE G R A Y 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 Ryan Mieras on PAGE 28 as part of “Raising All Boats” and Mojotone’s manufacturing facility for “Wide Open Spaces” on PAGE 38 . madelinegrayphoto.com and @madelinepgray on Instagram

jcano@wilmingtonbiz.com

Christina Haley chaley@wilmingtonbiz.com

Senior Account Executives Maggi Apel

mapel@wilmingtonbiz.com

Craig Snow csnow@wilmingtonbiz.com

Account Executives Courtney Barden

cbarden@wilmingtonbiz.com

Marian Welsh mwelsh@wilmingtonbiz.com

Sydney Zomer szomer@wilmingtonbiz.com

C E C E NUNN CECE NUNN has been writing and editing for more than twenty 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. For this issue, Nunn wrote about The Alliance for a Blue Economy, in “Raising All Boats” (PAGE 26).

O f f i c e & A u d i e n c e D e v e l o p m e n t M a nag e r Sandy Johnson

sjohnson@wilmingtonbiz.com

EventsDirector

Elizabeth Stelzenmuller events@wilmingtonbiz.com

E v e n t s & D i g i ta l A s s i s ta n t Jamie Kleinman jkleinman@wilmingtonbiz.com

D e s i g n & M e d i a A s s i s ta n t Molly Jacques

production@wilmingtonbiz.com

L Y N D A VAN KUREN LYNDA VAN KUREN, a transplant from the D.C.-metro area, is a freelance writer and content marketer whose work has appeared in national as well as regional publications. She loves connecting with others, whether through writing, ballet, or training her dogs for agility competitions. She talks with local startups working in the AI space about the future of artificial intelligence uses in “Brainstorming AI” (PAGE 56).

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Contributing Designer Suzi Drake

art@wilmingtonbiz.com

C o n t r i b u t i n g P h o t o g r ap h e r s

T.J. Drechsel, Megan Deitz, Madeline Gray, Aris Harding, Kevin Kleitches, Michael Cline Spencer, Terah Wilson

Subscribe

To subscribe to WilmingtonBiz Magazine,visit wilmingtonbiz.com/subscribe or call 343-8600 x201. © 2021 SAJ Media LLC


BizBites BEHIND THE NUMBERS |

SOUND OFF |

THE DIGEST

|

C-SUITE CONVO

CONCERT SEASON

Widespread Panic (lead singer John Bell shown here) kicked off Live Oak Bank Pavilion’s inaugural season with sold-out shows over three nights in July. Live Nation, which manages the new amphitheater at the city’s Riverfront Park, doesn’t release ticket sales numbers but said it has lined up 20 shows at the venue for this year. That doesn’t count the N.C. Azalea Festival’s three concerts last month that were rescheduled from their initial dates during the spring 2020 COVIDrelated shutdowns. Starting Oct. 4, Live Nation will require performers, crew members and fans to have proof of vaccinations or negative COVID tests for shows.

photo by MICHAEL CLINE SPENCER

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A DEVELOPER IS PLANNING TO ADD COLD STORAGE warehouse space on property near the Port of Wilmington. The recently announced project adds to the area’s investments in cold chain and cold storage logistics – keeping the heat down on temperature-sensitive products ranging from food to pharmaceuticals. Cold Summit Development will bring nearly 460,000 square feet of cold storage space in two buildings to property owned by the port off Raleigh Street, officials with N.C. Ports announced in late-August. The N.C. Ports Authority board approved a 30-year lease agreement with the developer for nearly 35 acres on two lots. The lease is the result of a process that started two years ago to draw interest in the Raleigh Street property for the development of cold storage opportunities, port officials said. “This partnership represents continued investments in our strategy to become a leader in cold chain logistics,” N.C. Ports Executive Director Brian Clark said. “We are particularly excited that this announcement gives more options and capacity to North Carolina’s business, including agriculture, grocery sector and life sciences.” The project includes two phases. In the first phase, Cold Summit plans to develop a 300,000-square-foot refrigerated warehouse. The facility will have a multi-suite, multi-temperature building with three rooms and 40,000 to 50,000 pallet spaces with the ability to handle frozen or chilled products at temperatures ranging from -20 degrees Fahrenheit to 57 degrees Fahrenheit. The developer has 15 months to begin construction on the first phase of the project. The second phase could be 159,000 square feet in a second building. It would include 17,000 pallet positions for goods stored in the -70 degrees Fahrenheit to 57 degrees Fahrenheit range, officials said. The announcement comes after the Port of Wilmington finished a new refrigerated container yard last year, boosting the port’s on-terminal refrigerated container (reefer) plugs from 235 to 775 in the $14 million construction project. The ports authority will invest another $19 million to further expand the refrigerated container yard next year.

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$1.1M

N.C. AZALEA FESTIVAL

$570K

ABRAHAM PRODUCTIONS

AREA ENTERTAINMENT VENUES AND ORGANIZATIONS RECEIVING LARGEST AMOUNTS FROM SBA’S SHUTTERED VENUE OPERATORS GRANT COVID-RELIEF PROGRAM

JULY

$310,000

BY CHRISTINA HALEY

2019 2020 2021

MEDIAN SALES PRICES OF SINGLE-FAMILY AND TOWNHOUSE/CONDOS WILMINGTON

PORT OF WILMINGTON DOUBLES DOWN ON COLD CHAIN, COLD STORAGE

SOUTHEASTERN NC

MINIMUM TEMP FOR NEW COLD STORAGE FACILITY

ILM’S

ECONOMIC IMPACT IN 2019

$2.25B TOTAL ECONOMIC IMPACT

16,385 JOBS

& LOCAL $85M STATE TAX REVENUE

WILMINGTON MSA

70

FAHRENHEIT

CFCC’S WILSON CENTER

$268,925

NUMBERS

$2.7M

$250,000

BEHIND THE

SOUTHEASTERN NC

BizBites

149,545 141,981

147,279

143,253

117,067

JAN 2020

EMPLOYMENT LEVELS FOR NEW HANOVER AND PENDER

JULY 2021

Sources: SBA, Cape Fear Realtors, NCDOT aviation division, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


SOUND OFF

BizBites

BUILDING FOR OUR FUTURE

C

hange is hard, but we need to be open to change – to continue to grow and evolve – or we die.

At Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI), we are thrilled to be leading the charge for the continued growth and evolution of our downtown to best serve our residents and visitors, both now and into the future. WDI’s mission as an organization is to “promote the economic growth and development of downtown Wilmington,” and we can think of no other development project currently in our downtown – and likely within our lifetime – that has the potential for true downtown transformation like Project Grace. Downtown Wilmington is the economic engine of New Hanover County and the entire region. As the region’s economic engine, our downtown residents deserve access to the very best facilities that our county can offer them: bright, engaging civics and arts facilities – an entire block where families can gather and spend time at a state-of-the-art public library and Cape Fear Museum. We applaud the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners, who have gone to great lengths over

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H O L L Y C H I L D S the past four years to engage the public and to build a world-class (but Wilmington-local) development team, Zimmer Development and LS3P Architects. This development team was assembled to study and reimagine this critical block of our downtown, and the Discovery Phase is now complete. The Project Grace block currently has two buildings on it that are often touted as “historic”: the former BelkBeery department store, which has been repurposed as an underutilized and failing facility housing our flagship library; and the Borst Building, a former Chrysler dealership-turned-eyesore, from back in the days when car dealerships were downtown. Both blighted buildings need to be demolished for Project Grace to move forward effectively. However, it is important to note that this demolition will be in phases: The north side of the block (the

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HISTORY UNDER SEIGE

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ilmington is proud of the historic charm and architectural diversity found within the city’s eight historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Yet, Wilmington’s historic districts are under attack from the razing and alteration of structures that strip the buildings of their architectural integrity. New Hanover County’s Project Grace continues this damaging trend by calling for the demolition of the Borst Building, a contributing resource in the Wilmington National Register Historic District. Constructed in 1926 as Wilmington’s first Chrysler dealership, the Borst Building’s slated demolition creates a dangerous precedent of local government eroding the character of our city’s National Register Historic Districts. Preserving Wilmington’s contributing resources is essential to maintaining buildings’ eligibility for historic preservation tax credits. Only buildings within the boundaries of a National Register Historic District (or buildings individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places) are eligible

T R A V I S GILBERT for federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits. Since the federal historic preservation tax credit’s inception, 166 projects (totaling over $42 million in private investment) have been completed in New Hanover County. A 2008 study from UNC-Chapel Hill estimated that 23,100 jobs were created by preservation tax credit projects in North Carolina. Historic preservation tax credits are a proven tool for the economic revitalization of downtown Wilmington, as evidenced by Lighthouse Films’ Richter Building, the Seabird restaurant’s Solomon Building or Monteith Construction’s office in the Knights of Pythias Building. When irreplaceable contributing resources are lost to the wrecking ball, it increases the likelihood of a boundary decrease for our historic districts. Boundary decreases recently occurred in the North Carolina communities of Kinston, Oxford


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O N FA C E B O O K . C O M / W I L M I N GT O N B I Z

O N T W I T T E R : @ W I L M I N GT O N B I Z

OF THE MOST-LIKED RESPONSES.)

“PF CHANG’S and Topgolf” - BLAINE STOWE “MID-SIZE MUSIC venues!” - KRISTEN WITKOWSKI “WEGMANS!!” - ANGELA LAMBERT “AT THIS POINT, nothing. We need to be able to find employees for the businesses we have.” - MELISSA ANCERAVAGE “DOWNTOWN: PHARMACY, grocery store, dry cleaner. Why live downtown if you have to drive for basics? - LANCE OEHRLEIN “WE HAVE SO MANY GOOD LOCAL options, I’m not at all interested in chains for food. I’d rather see more local options for both. As a 60-year-old native, I can’t begin to list the numerous restaurant chains that have come and gone here.” - BOB HINNANT

IS YOUR BUSINESS HAVING TROUBLE FINDING EMPLOYEES TO FILL OPEN POSITIONS?

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66.7%

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Borst Building side) will strategically be demolished first, so that the public library will continue operations in the current building while the new “purpose-built” library facility is constructed, avoiding any interruptions in services. Our main library is not only destined to be “saved,” but it will also be dramatically improved, and both our library and museum will have more total usable square footage and be better positioned to serve ou r residents in the future. We recognize that all buildings have a history, but we also realize that this is not about the history of a particular building as a former department store or a car dealership – neither of which has ever changed the world or sparked the imagination. Instead, it’s about the future of our downtown and about equity for the people who live in that downtown, people who raise their families and start their businesses here. It’s about ensuring that children growing up downtown have just as nice of a place to read, learn, play and dream as the children in Pine Valley. That we can remember and honor our past but not be afraid to move boldly forward – creating a better downtown for everyone.

and Flat Rock, to name a few, and the consequences are dire: properties’ future eligibility for historic preservation tax credits and federal protections for historic neighborhoods. Boundary decreases to the Wilmington National Register Historic District also negatively affect Historic Wilmington Foundation and other stakeholders’ ability to advocate for neighborhoods. Under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, federal agencies must take into account the effects of their actions on properties listed on – or eligible for – the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, the city’s rail realignment project triggered Section 106 due to its potential effects on the Wilmington National Register Historic District; a Cape Fear Memorial Bridge Replacement will likely follow suit. Should the Wilmington National Register Historic District’s boundaries decrease, neighbor-

Holly Childs is president and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Inc. w i l m i n g t o n b i z m a g a z i n e . c o m

hoods protected by the National Historic Preservation Act might be excluded from federal review and local advocacy. HWF appreciates New Hanover County’s desire to invest in the Main Library and Cape Fear Museum. Dedicating the Armory Building on Market Street (the Cape Fear Museum’s current location) to collections storage should be applauded as an exercise in historic preservation that ensures our county-owned artifacts are adequately protected. Yet, HWF believes Project Grace presents an opportunity to demonstrate how local government can prioritize the preservation of National Register Historic Districts through adaptive reuse, and we hope to see the Borst Building stand as a bedrock of the block for decades to come. Travis Gilbert is Historic Wilmington Foundation’s executive director and serves on the board of directors at Thalian Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Southport Historical Society and Old Baldy Foundation. FA L L 2021

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HELP WANTED FACTORS

F

RIEDRICH VON HAYEK’S ADMONITION IS MORE APPARENT TODAY THAN IN RECENT MEMORY, “THE CURIOUS TASK OF ECONOMICS IS TO DEMONSTRATE TO MEN HOW LITTLE THEY KNOW ABOUT WHAT THEY IMAGINE THEY CAN DESIGN.” The current “shortage” of workers is a perfect example. It’s not simple; there isn’t enough space here to fully address the issue, and to be frank, we still don’t know everything. Nevertheless, let’s dive in for a second and confirm whatever your prior belief was but also add some other factors to the list. Stimulus funds, virus fears, child care, social distancing and remote environments all play a role, but transferable skills are also an important part of the story that we often overlook. Early in the shortage, the prevailing narrative was one of child care and homeschooling problems, but schools and day cares largely reopened in many places, including in Southeastern North Carolina, and yet the problem remains. Former Obama administration economist Jason Furman finds that after controlling for other factors, women with children did not exit the labor force any faster than those without, and surprisingly, men with children were less likely

w i l m i n g t o n b i z m a g a z i n e . c o m

A D A M J O N E S to exit than those without. Thus, while child care is a difficulty and might be part of the labor supply problem, it’s certainly not a complete explanation. The more recent narrative has been focused on the increased unemployment insurance, and while the data are just starting to trickle in from states that ended the socalled “top-up” benefits early, the large unemployment checks may well also be a part of the explanation. The average unemployment benefit in North Carolina was $236 a week before adding the extra $300 a week top-up, which equates to just shy of $30,000 a year. Imagine, if you were asked to “work” during your leisure time and to take a pay cut. You’d probably decline too. The large unemployment benefits, while well-intended and arguably appropriate at the start of the pandemic, are now contributing to labor shortages near the end. (Please tell me we are near the end!) Setting aside child care and unemployment benefits, we still have the broader problem of a public health crisis that lingers on. Census survey data suggests that the number of folks not

working because they are “afraid of contracting or spreading virus” has fallen from a little over 6 million people in July last year to under 3 million in July this year. (The next round of surveys should start to include delta variant effects.) The interesting thing about fear of the virus is that the fear runs across education and skill levels, albeit not a perfect match but not as concentrated on lower-wage, service sector employment as the shutdowns were. Labor shortages across the skill spectrum are creating opportunities for those with transferable skills or looking to take the next step on the employment ladder, and firms are willing to take a chance and invest in new workers because they don’t have a choice. Think of the current labor market like kids picking teams on the playground. The first pick (highest wage) takes the best player, and the next pick (slightly lower wage) takes the next best player until all the players have been picked. The lowest-wage jobs may well be left with no players left to pick. The shortage is certainly an inconvenience for consumers and a major challenge for employers. But workers with transferable skills or who just needed an opportunity are getting their chance, and, long run, the human capital and process improvements developed out of necessity will benefit us all. Adam Jones is a regional economist with UNCW's Swain Center and an associate professor of economics in UNCW's Cameron School of Business.

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One Caring Organization OFFERING

Two Great Communities In Wilmington. Liberty Senior Living is part of Liberty Healthcare Management. The family-owned, North Carolina based company has been helping seniors to manage their residence and care for over 145 years.

Brightmore of Wilmington is the longstanding choice of Wilmington residents. With its recent renovations preserving its stately elegance (completed in early 2020), Brightmore of Wilmington continues to attract many older adults with its strong sense of engagement and comradery within its community.

Carolina Bay is a life plan community that epitomizes the essence of independent living. You may choose to live in a luxury rental apartment or a lovely garden flat. You will also have the peace of mind that a continuum of healthcare is available in the same building as your home.

910.350.1980

910.769.7500

BrightmoreofWilmington.com

CarolinaBayatAutumnHall.com

We’re looking for talented people to come join our team! Visit our careers website, libertycareers.com, and see if you might be a good fit for one of our open positions. When you work with Liberty Healthcare Management you are a part of our 125-year reputation of excellence and trust. We honor that commitment with stimulating work environments, exceptional benefits, personal growth and respect. libertyseniorliving.com

© 2021 Liberty Senior Living


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RENDERING C/O SWAIN & ASSOCIATES

UPDATE: THE LATEST ON CENTERPOINT

A

lthough it’s been four years since developers announced plans for CenterPoint, a major mixed-use project on Eastwood and Military Cutoff roads in Wilmington, work on the development continues with a potential start next year. CenterPoint, planned by Wilmington-based firm Swain & Associates, is expected to include a hotel, an office building with a parking deck, apartments with a parking deck, restaurants and stores on about 23 acres. N.C. DOT officials said recently that a road project crucial to CenterPoint – the extension of Drysdale Drive off Military Cutoff Road – could start next year. Jason Swain of Swain & Associates said it’s his understanding that the extension project could begin in the first quarter of 2022. “Our plan is when they begin their work,” Swain said, “we’ll

begin our site work,” which will involve clearing land and installing horizontal infrastructure, including water, sewer and roadways. Asked about the impact of the pandemic on retail and its hastening of the demise of some retailers, Swain said he does not think the project would be affected. “CenterPoint is designed not to be a big-format retail destination,” Swain said. “All of our spaces are 1,200 to a maximum of 5,000 square feet. The general idea of the whole project is for it to be about smallformat local (retailers) like at The Forum and Lumina Station.” He said CenterPoint is also expected to be home to numerous restaurants. Swain & Associates developed The Forum and still manages the shopping center on Military Cutoff Road after selling it in 2013. - Cece Nunn

TO STAY I N T H E LO O P O N T H E L AT E ST AR E A B U S I NE S S H A P P EN IN G S , CHECK OUT OUR DA I LY A F T ER N OON NE W S L E T T E R . S I G N U P AT WILM IN GTON BIZ.COM .

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GAME DEVELOPMENT STUDIO TO OPEN Greenville, North Carolina-based Grover Gaming is opening its new game development studio in Wilmington. The studio, in The Cotton Exchange in downtown Wilmington, already has several employees working in the office, and will officially open Sept. 27 with about 20 employees. Ultimately, the company plans to hire over 60 team members, Chief Product Officer Dean Smith said. “Grover Gaming has been pooling talent from all over the country, and as we get newer, younger talent, there is more and more demand for an urban location that is central to food, festivals and city events,” Smith said. “Wilmington has a huge appeal for creatives with close proximity to EUE/ Screen Gems Studios and downtown art galleries and museums.” - Johanna Cano

Brunswick County commercial construction activity in July

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CONSTRUCTION COSTS

Source: Brunswick County Code Administration

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Supporting Startup Success Every Step of the Way CIE opens in September

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The Coalition is formed

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Team-Based Mentor Program begins

20 18 Accelerator Fund launches and awards $23,000 to 10 ventures

Launch of Inaugural All Blue Week & Certificate in Innovation in Healthcare

Celebrating 10th Annual Coastal Entrepreneur Awards New year-long Youth Entrepreneurship Program for high school students NC IDEA ECOSYSTEM Partner designation

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Coastal Connect launches then later merges under Cucalorus Film Festival

1 Million Cups launches in Wilmington Inaugural NC Bioneer Ventures Challenge awards $40,000

The UNCW CIE is building on a eight-year history of growing successful startups. Currently guiding more than 130 entrepreneurs and being assisted by volunteer efforts of more than 100 expert mentors, we’re ready to support your exciting new venture. Our programs include online education and networking events; office, coworking, conference room, and virtual tenancies; mentor programs; funding support; and a network of entrepreneurial support services. Our mission is to accelerate the creation of entrepreneurial ventures, knowledge-based jobs, and innovative business solutions. JOIN US.

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BizBites

C-SUITE C O N V O

HOLLYWOOD EAST REBOUNDS

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BY VICKY JANOWSKI

TATE FILM OFFICIALS AND GOV. ROY COOPER ANNOUNCED LAST MONTH THAT STATE FILM SPENDING ESTIMATES ARE ON TRACK TO HIT A HIGH POINT THIS YEAR. Already, as of the August announcement, productions have spent about $409 million this year in North Carolina, marking the most activity since the state switched in 2014 from a tax incentive program to a grant-based system to lure projects. Much of that spending – about $300 million – has taken place in the Wilmington region. Below is an excerpt from a recent Q&A with N.C. Film Office Director Guy Gaster. To read more, go to wilmingtonbizmagazine.com. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE REASONS FOR THE INCREASE IN FILM ACTIVITY AND SPENDING FROM PRODUCTIONS THIS YEAR?

“We have worked for several years on making the grant the best possible version it can be and really stabilize it so that it provides the best guarantee we can to studios and film executives and shows that North Carolina is committed to the industry. That has included removing the program’s sunset date and making the program recurring. That stability, along with the sunsets of both HB2 and HB142, have played huge roles in getting North Carolina back in front of the decisionmakers. Thankfully, our workforce and infrastructure’s reputation of being some of the best in the business have also survived during some slower times as well.”

GUY GASTER DIRECTOR

N.C. FILM OFFICE

THIS YEAR’S SPENDING IS THE LARGEST AMOUNT SINCE THE STATE MOVED FROM A FILM TAX CREDIT TO OFFERING REBATES FUNDED THROUGH A GRANT SYSTEM IN 2014. IS THAT A SIGN THAT THE GRANT SYSTEM HAS BECOME MORE COMPETITIVE WITH OTHER STATES LIKE GEORGIA, WHICH STILL OFFERS A TAX CREDIT FOR PRODUCTIONS?

“Not only is the figure the biggest since the ‘grant’ program began, it is also the largest since the state has started offering any type of incentive and is definitely the highest when looking at actual figures provided by the productions themselves. What the state and its partners continue to do well is know what types of projects work best with our program and really go after those – thus creating a special niche within the industry.” WITH THE JUMP IN FILMING STATEWIDE, HOW IS WILMINGTON FITTING INTO THE ACTIVITY?

“Wilmington remains the heart of the state’s film industry due in part to the amount of private investment in infrastructure in the area as well as the number of film professionals living in

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the area – some of which have been part of the industry for more than 30 years. As such, we typically see at least half of the annual spending taking place in Southeastern North Carolina. This year, we are definitely seeing even more of the production spending taking place in the (Southeast) region, closer to 2/3, but I believe we will see production and production-related spending increase in other areas of the state soon. One of the great things to date about the success in 2021 is that not only are we seeing this record-breaking spending, but film activity is also taking place in all eight of the state’s prosperity zones.” WHEN IT COMES TO THE FILM WORKFORCE IN THE STATE, ARE THERE WAYS TO INCREASE TRAINING OR ATTRACT MORE WORKERS BASED HERE?

“Being able to prove that someone could find steady work here in North Carolina within the industry has been key. We are there – now, it is time to reintroduce the industry to some and also start reaching out to the next generation to let them know about opportunities within the industry. Many people, when they think of film, may only think of set builders, camera operators, directors and/or actors, so we need to start retelling the story of the many other opportunities that are available with a production including but not limited to office personnel, accounting, hair and makeup, set dressing/interior design, welders, drivers, location management personnel and many more. Thus, showing how someone might be able to transfer these skills into the film industry will likely play a key role in growing the film workforce.” FA L L 2021

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DIAMONDS AND THE GOLDEN RULE: THE ZIMMER FAMILY KEEPS TRADITIONS ALIVE BY JENNY CALLISON PHOTO BY KEVIN KLEITCHES

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eeds Jewelers is having a gem of a year. The Wilmington-based chain is celebrating its diamond anniversary doing what it has always done, according to its founding family: taking care of its employees and customers. It’s also growing. “We’re in 13 states, and now we’re nationwide through e-commerce,” said Reeds’ CEO and President Alan Zimmer (left). “We believe we’re only as good as our people behind the counter and in the home office, and we have great people. We’re so blessed with the tenure of our people. It’s not unusual for (our employees) to have 35 to 40 years with the company.” The third-generation, familyowned company now has 61 stores and 750 employees, about 150 of whom work in Wilmington, where Reeds has two stores and its national headquarters. Diamonds have been in the Zimmer family for generations. Alan Zimmer’s father, Bill, grew up in the retail jewelry business and learned at a young age how to sell diamonds. In 1946 he and his wife, Roberta, purchased a small jewelry store in downtown Wilmington and changed the name to Reeds. The choice of location was a happy one, Alan Zimmer said. “My father was from Niagara Falls, New York, and during World War II he was stationed at Fort McClellan, outside Birmingham, Alabama,” Alan Zimmer said. “He met my mother at a USO dance in Birmingham. They decided to get married before he shipped off. My mother’s family went to meet my father’s family in Niagara Falls, and her father said, ‘No way is my daughter going to live in Buffalo, New York.’ They found a store for sale in Wilmington. I always thanked my mother for that.”

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PROFILE

The downtown venture was a success, and Reeds expanded: first with stores in Whiteville and Jacksonville and then elsewhere in North Carolina. All four of the Zimmer children grew up working in the business. Alan Zimmer stayed with it, officially joining Reeds as head of merchandising in 1981 and taking the company’s leadership role four years later. While he has further grown the business, he said he has been careful to maintain its identity as a family store that values its customers. “My father always believed in the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. That means a customer in the store, an employee or an associate,” Alan Zimmer said. “He instilled it in us and we’re trying to instill it in the next generation. We believe the customer is always right.” The next generation has heard plenty of stories that illustrated Bill Zimmer’s business philosophy as well as his commitment to philanthropy. Three grandchildren carrying on this legacy are part of Reeds. Genna Zimmer is the company’s director of strategy. Her sister Brittney is one of Reeds’ buyers. Alan Zimmer’s nephew Mark Schreiber is vice president of store operations and improvement. “Our stores are only as good as the store managers,” said Schreiber, explaining that the Zimmers’ family tradition is replicated at many Reeds locations, where employees are related to each other. While Reeds has grown over the years, there have been a few bumps. “We suffered in 2008 like everybody did,” Alan Zimmer said. “Then in March 2020 we had to close our stores due to COVID (restrictions), and I questioned what the future held. But our e-commerce took off in late April. Most of our stores opened in early May.” FA L L 2021

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IN PROFILE

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That ability to lean on its e-commerce side during the pandemic last year was partly a result of the company’s longtime focus on its digital side. One of the first jewelers to have a digital footprint, Reeds has been online for 20 years. And in 2014, it became the first fine jeweler to offer bitcoin as a payment option. “Our bread and butter is our stores,” Genna Zimmer said. “But people can buy online and pick up in a store. We also try to replicate the store experience online, with virtual appointments. With a custom sale we will walk (the customer) through the different features of the diamond they are evaluating. We can send them under-the-microscope photos. Our niche is those hightouch experiences, whether through our technology or through virtual presentations online.” The online sales generated data that is helping the Zimmer family expand Reeds’ store network. “To determine expansion locales, we look at where are people shopping from online,” Alan Zimmer said. “We’re planning a new flagship store in Brandon, Florida, in the greater Orlando area because there is a pocket of customers shopping with us online. We hope to open that store in early November.” Meanwhile, Reeds’ two Wilmington stores – in Independence Mall and Mayfaire Town Center – continue to be successful. “Our customers know we’ve been trustworthy for 75 years,” Genna Zimmer said. “There aren’t too many family businesses left; when I graduated from Wharton, I was one of two people going back to a family business. “Mark and I talk about this: being part of something; helping our grandfather’s legacy live on,” she continued. “He never knew a stranger. At his funeral, people told us things like ‘He encouraged me to get my education.’ ‘He made me feel like a million dollars.’ He cared about people at a level that is almost unheard-of these days.”


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SERVED BY

The Power Breakfast Series is a quarterly gathering of the business community and other community leaders to talk about issues of interest to our region. Each breakfast features a panel discussion or individual speaker focusing on topics of interest to local companies. The breakfasts provide a unique networking opportunity since they are attended by a range of influential people including busines owners, executives, community leaders and many others.

Want to plug into the Power? Become a Power Break fast sponsor! Sponsors are recognized before and during each event and have a table up front. Learn about sponsorship options by contacting us at marketing@wilmingtonbiz.com. Note: Power Breakfasts continue bringing important topics to the community through Covid by following the gathering restrictions and broadcasting the events online.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

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MAKING WAVES

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PUBLIC-PRIVATE DEALS

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INDUSTRIAL SPACE UPDATE

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ECONOMIC TRENDS

INNOVATION

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HEMP HAPPENINGS AI’S POTENTIAL

2021

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT + INNOVATION

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SUSTAINABLE AQUACULTURE AND FISHERIES (sector example) –

Seaview Crab Co.’s Lee Fentress boats through area waters to check his crab pots for the locally owned wholesale and retail seafood supplier. The All Blue group’s focus in this sector is to help drive the state’s seafood industry and supply chain to a more sustainable and profitable future.

R A I S I N G ALL B O AT S BY CECE NUNN P H O T O S B Y D A R I A A M AT O , M E G A N D E I T Z , T. J . D R E C H S E L & M A D E L I N E G R AY

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Th e B l u e E co n o m y i ni t i at i v e s e e ks t o l u re g ro w t h a n d i n n o v at i o n athan King and his

partners, Sam and Joe Romano, started crabbing together in Masonboro Sound about 15 years ago, selling their hauls to restaurants around town and in Raleigh and Durham.

“We did odd jobs back in high school (in Virginia Beach) – you know, mowed lawns and dumped junk and stuff like that together – so we had a working relationship,” King said. They also graduated from college around the same time, and the Romanos purchased a commercial fishing license. “That sounded perfect for me at the time, not getting behind a desk or rushing into a job or anything,” King said. “And then it was more of the entrepreneurism that drove us, an ability to grow a business together mixed with working on the water.”

King and the Romanos own Seaview Crab Co., headquartered at 1515 Marstellar St. in Wilmington, where they sell seafood wholesale and through a retail market and a kitchen and deli. They also have a seafood retail market on Carolina Beach Road. Their team includes more than 60 fishmongers with a supply chain along the North Carolina coast and beyond. Seaview Crab Co. is part of the Blue Economy, a concept that has given rise to a growing local initiative to boost what the World Bank defines as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while

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preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.” The organization, The Alliance for a Blue Economy (All Blue), allbluenc.org, has an advisory board of science and business leaders who are focusing on attracting, advising and launching businesses in five Blue Economy sectors: ocean engineering and marine robotics; sustainable aquaculture and fisheries; marine biotechnology; tourism, recreation and hospitality; and coastal conservation and resilience. Born out of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship,

All Blue has ambitious goals that include bringing Blue Economy investment capital to Southeastern North Carolina and promoting the region as a Blue Economy innovation hub. The alliance also wants the area to become a global leader in Blue Economy solutions, assist in the creation of a Blue Economyready infrastructure, make connections between sectors, support entrepreneurship and champion diversity, equity, inclusion and sustainability, according to the organization’s website. All Blue started forming about two years ago under the guidance of Diane Durance, former director of UNCW’s CIE. She sought the help of industry leaders and other kinds of experts, including Kim Nelson, a Wilmington resident and consultant who works with nonprofits on strategic planning. After Durance asked Nelson for her assistance, Nelson met with the five sector leads initially, “and then we expanded the groups and we reached out into the community and we reached out to other experts that were interested in those five FA L L 2021

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sectors, and we put together a mission, a vision and some priorities for each of the sectors. And then as we looked at the thread that went across through the five sectors, we built the mission and vision for the overarching All Blue initiative,” Nelson said. Nelson is co-chair of All Blue with Jay Schach, mentor with Seagrass Consulting LLC and an adjunct professor in the Cameron School of Business Management Department at UNCW. Part of All Blue’s work is to find answers to far-reaching Blue Economy questions, Nelson said. “Instead of having individual businesses that are just doing their little piece,” she said, “how do we bring those businesses together in a way that allows us to make the Blue Economy stronger, or how do we work with businesses that maybe are on the fringe of what we would define as the Blue Economy, and they’ve got something but they don’t quite know how to really position it in the global economy – how do we help them position that?” She believes the kind of connections All Blue can make will be key to growth. “When you unite people in a way where they can all be working in their sweet spot, their real area of specialty, when you bring those resources together, it can accomplish a lot more than any of them could do as an individual,” Nelson said. Schach gave an example of how resources can be combined to come up with solutions. “When I was with Cleveland Water Alliance, they put together a system of sensors to monitor the algae bloom. So once they got the sensors up, they knew that in the water departments, they could put in a certain chemical that gets rid of the taste of the algae,” he said. “But if it was too early, it was wasted. And if it was too late, it didn’t take the taste out. Working together, they helped all the community water departments

COASTAL CONSERVATION AND RESILIENCE (sector example)

– Ryan Mieras, an assistant professor of coastal engineering at UNCW, holds a prototype line-scanning, low-cost LiDAR system at Wrightsville Beach. Mieras received a MARBIONC Blue Economy Grant this year to develop the rapidly deployable LiDAR system that can observe changes to the shape of the beach during extreme weather events such as hurricanes.

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with the quality of their water.” All Blue is working with companies already in the area and hopes to lure some new ones by showing that the region can provide the same resources in some cases at a lower cost, Schach said. Nelson said the alliance is working on fostering the creation of new businesses as well as opportunities that can emerge from Blue Economy sectors, such as data collected by marine robotics equipment. The All Blue co-chair said she believes the initiative’s efforts, which also focus on sustainability, differ from that of other local economic development groups. “I would say it complements the work that they do, but it focuses specifically on things that we believe are in that Blue space. And so when you look at a traditional economic development group, they’re looking at economic development from a broad perspective and just given our region, they will, of course, focus on the water,” Nelson said. “It’s a piece of who we are, so it’s not that they don’t address those things, but that’s not

their focus. Their focus is on economic development of any type.” All Blue can also help pursue grants that are specific to the Blue Economy, she said. Aiming for grants, potentially large ones, is one of the goals of another Blue Economy organization that grew from the university along with establishing a facility that can foster the creation of successful tech companies. With a focus on Blue Technology, including robotics and engineering, Cape Fear Ocean Labs spun out of UNCW’s CIE as a 501(c)(3) to work on becoming “the globally recognized lead organization in the Cape Fear Region for Blue Tech economic growth and job creation based on scientific discovery, technology development and commercial deployment,” the organization’s website states. Glenn Anderson, chairman of the board of directors of Cape Fear Ocean Labs, said that like All Blue, his organization has worked to boost awareness of the Blue Economy and how its local growth could benefit the region.

“It’s a big deal,” Anderson said. “In North Carolina, there’s not a deep understanding of it, and in Wilmington, when you say, ‘Blue Economy,’ everybody’s first reaction is beer, shrimp and the view. “And our focus is on the commercial side, not really the tourism side of the Blue Economy.” Cape Fear Ocean Labs organizers feel the area has a lot going for it to attract and grow more of that commercial side. Wilmington has unique competitive advantages when it comes to creating a Blue Tech business cluster, Anderson said, along with its proximity to important waterways. Those advantages include UNCW, Cape Fear Community College and the Port of Wilmington. “That combination is actually pretty rare … you have access to a biological preserve, you have open ocean coastal and deep sea and you have the anchor institutions that support Blue Economy activities,” Anderson said. Bill Wilson, board secretary and treasurer for Cape Fear Ocean Labs, added, “And you have the city. There

MARINE BIOTECHNOLOGY (sector example) – SeaTox Research

Inc. co-founder Sam McCall works in the company’s lab. SeaTox works on drug discovery, the development of natural products into bioactives and tests for toxins that can contaminate commercial seafood.

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TOURISM, RECREATION AND HOSPITALITY (sector example) – All

Blue’s focus also includes how the waterways are used for recreation and to promote tourism, for sustainable travel as well as regenerative travel, which is how to use tourism to improve destinations. Here stand-up paddleboarders hit the water from Wrightsville Beach’s Wrightsville SUP, which also operates kayak and canoe rentals, tours and lessons.

are lots of big stretches of coastline that are kind of basically vacation homes and tourist destinations. But Wilmington has a real economy beyond that coastal tourism-fishing economy, and that gives it a basis to build on that a lot of other places don’t have.” A key initial goal for Cape Fear Ocean Labs is opening a makerspace with room to act as an accelerator and have room for a job recruiting program and workforce training. The group also plans to “provide a depot of marine unmanned surface, subsurface and aerial robotics systems that we will lease at low cost to academic institutions and commercial users,” its website states. In August, the organization was in the midst of searching for a space. “There are several sites that have potential,” whether it be buying property or leasing existing facilities, Anderson said. The Blue Economy, in particular

the Blue Tech Economy, is a top funding priority for the federal government, Anderson said. He added that grant money, to the tune of millions of dollars, is available from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. UNCW or New Hanover County could apply for the grant, and Cape Fear Ocean Labs could staff it, he said. In an example of Blue Economy strides made recently, the ocean engineering and marine robotics sector is also collaborating with N.C. A&T State University to bring minority engineering students together with UNCW marine science, coastal engineering and business students for semester-long programs to explore innovations in marine energy and robotics. The joint A&T/UNCW team was selected as one of 17 teams to compete in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Marine Energy Collegiate Competition.

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One of the participants in All Blue in the biotech field is SeaTox. Based at UNCW’s CREST Research Park, SeaTox Research Inc. focuses on drug discovery, the development of natural products into bioactives and tests for toxins that can contaminate commercial seafood. SeaTox was founded by Jennifer and Sam McCall in 2013, and Sam McCall has been a member of a CIE Blue Economy workgroup. “I would really like to see the initiative start to draw in and otherwise expand the technological endeavors here in Wilmington and really Southeastern North Carolina,” he said. “There’s kind of a void for big tech whether it be biotech, chemtech. We’ve certainly grown over the years with a couple of big names, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent as say RTP (Research Triangle Park) is, and we’d really like to try and draw some of that down here in Wilmington and use the marine resources we have here.” FA L L 2021

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OCEAN ENGINEERING AND MARINE ROBOTICS (sector example) – An example of this Blue

Economy sector is UNCW’s Coastal Ocean Research and Monitoring Program, or CORMP, which has buoys along the coast of the Carolinas to collect and report real-time oceanographic and meteorological data.

Photo by Chris LaClair C/O CORMP

Sam McCall said such growth is beneficial to his firm and other companies. “We’ve said this a lot, and it bears repeating that a rising tide raises all boats, and so we hope that by bringing in additional or new businesses, industries that are tangential to biotech, that we’ll have new collaborators, we’ll have new projects that we can work on, those kinds of things,” Sam McCall said. “Certainly we hope that SeaTox grows along with the local economy.” Biotech is just one component of the Blue Economy that All Blue wants

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to foster and connect. For King, of Seaview Crab Co., the sustainable aquaculture and fisheries sector of the Blue Economy is an area that provides a win for all sides. Growing clams and oysters and other shellfish is an economic opportunity that’s “seen extreme growth, and there’s a lot of new people getting into it,” King said. It’s an industry that creates jobs while also helping the environment, he said, and he wants to encourage more young people to consider careers on the water. As another means of promoting

M A G A Z I N E

the area’s Blue Economy, an All Blue Week is scheduled for Nov. 1-7 that would encourage participation from the community and UNCW in dozens of activities. “The dream,” former CIE director Durance said, “would be that everybody in our community is aware of what the Blue Economy is, and they’re doing their part, whatever that is, even if it’s something as simple as not using plastic straws, or it could be something as sophisticated as founding a marine biotechnology company.”


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BY B E T H A . K L A H R E

UBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS, OFTEN REFERRED TO AS PPP, PPI AND P3, ARE NOT NEW. IN FACT, IN NEW HANOVER COUNTY AND SURROUNDING COUNTIES, THERE HAS BEEN SIGNIFICANT PPP ACTIVITY OVER THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS.

PPPs are contracted relationships, often over a long term of a year or more, between a private party and a government entity ultimately delivering a public asset or service. The range of opportunities for such a partnership is wide. In a PPP, the private party can finance, build, operate and maintain public infrastructure facilities and provide services traditionally delivered by the government agencies within the community. General examples include improvements to roads, airports, bridges, railways and community buildings such as hospitals, schools, prisons, parks and convention centers. The advantages of a PPP can be numerous, such as making a seemingly impossible project a possibility or enabling completion within a faster timeline. Often incentives to complete work on time and on budget drive the private company’s implementation plan while also assuming the risk of cost overruns and meeting predefined quality standards. On the flip side, the infrastructure or service delivered can be more expensive. And because the projects are long term, they can be complicated and touted as inflexible as it’s impossible to plan for everything far in advance. “In my experience, successful partnerships tend to result when the public partner has done its homework in advance and has a good idea of the public benefits it wants to obtain,” said C. Tyler Mulligan, director of the Development Finance Initiative at UNC’s School of Government who focuses on real estate development. “Another indicator of success is having a private sector partner who is transparent about the deal structure, including sources and costs of capital and uses of capital. That transparency helps partners communicate and understand each other, and it allows a program like DFI to validate the fairness of the deal.”

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In April, Husch Blackwell, which consults with private businesses and public agencies to form P3s across the U.S., released its fourth annual Private-Public Partnership Trends Report. The extensive report outlines keys to successful P3s. It suggests that the public sector have a dedicated team to manage or oversee the project and that identified revenue streams be sufficient to retire the project and provide an acceptable rate of return over the term of the agreement. Furthermore, picking the best partner, not necessarily the lowest-price partner, is key, and open and candid stakeholder communications are critical, including active support from public figures and political leaders. There are also challenges with any PPP, Mulligan said. “The primary challenge is that the private sector and public sector often have different goals, and sometimes they have trouble communicating those goals to each other,” he said. “The government often doesn’t understand private sector capital and return expectations, and the private sector doesn’t understand what the government is legally permitted to do and why certain public benefits are required for government participation in a PPP.” In New Hanover County, there’s been a range of PPP endeavors over the past several years. “From my perspective, if the PPP benefits the community and the citizens we represent, I will support it. If not, I will not,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. In May 2017, officials announced a publicprivate partnership between the city of Wilmington and East West Partners to redevelop the Water Street parking deck with a new 409-space deck, 32,000 square feet of retail space, 92 luxury condominiums and 79 high-end apartments. The 13-story, mixed-use River Place opened to tenants last year. Repairs have had to be done in some of the residential units. Saffo recalled the vision shared with the community during the evaluation of options that included housing, commerce and a redesign to open Chestnut Street to the river as part of the project. “The project accomplished all three,” he said. “In addition, the architecture that was approved by city council in open session fulfilled the vision we all had. It was incorporated into the streetscape and skyline, and it blends with historic downtown Wilmington. It’s what we wanted it FA L L 2021

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IN M Y E XPER I E N C E , SUCCE S S FU L PA RT NE RS H I P S TE N D TO RE S ULT W H E N TH E P UB L IC PA RTN E R H AS D O NE IT S H O M E W O R K I N A DVA NCE AN D H AS A G O O D IDE A O F TH E P UB L IC B E N E F I TS I T WA NT S TO O B TAI N .

C. TYLER M U L L I G A N

DIRECTOR OF THE DEVELOPMENT FINANCE INITIATIVE AT UNC’S SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT

to look like. The parking deck is a healthy tax base for the community, and it has brought more people to live in downtown Wilmington.” More recently, in March, New Hanover County commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding for Project Grace with Zimmer Development to create a civic and arts district in downtown Wilmington. The project includes the public library and Cape Fear Museum plus office space and private development with residential and mixed use. Under the proposal – a development agreement still would have to be finalized – the developer would manage the construction of both the public and private facilities on the site, which is a 3-acre block that the county owns. Under the proposal, at the completion of work on the library and museum, the county would have a 20-year lease on the buildings. At the end of the 20-year term, New Hanover County would own the library and museum components at no additional cost. Saffo said he hoped the library would be enhanced and beautified.

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“The possibility of the library and the museum in town within walking distance for visitors will add synergy to downtown Wilmington, and I hope the new center will incorporate the historic buildings in the block,” he said. In another recently announced public-private partnership, the New Hanover County Government Center is undergoing a $120 million redevelopment project. Construction began in midMarch 2021 on the facility after county commissioners approved a revised development agreement in January. The new facility will include county offices, an expanded emergency operations and 911 center as well as commercial, retail and residential units. Local developer Cape Fear FD Stonewater LLC is managing the construction of the public and private facilities. The county will enter into a 20-year public debt to finance the construction of the government center and retain ownership of the land where the new facility is built. The remaining portion of the land will be sold to the developer for a mixed-use residential and commercial development. According to county officials, the vision for the project includes an energy-efficient building with a customer-focused design aimed to be easily accessible and welcoming to the public while delivering efficient operations. The new building will be resilient, safe and secure during emergency events. The project also envisions mindful stewardship of public resources in alignment with the county’s strategic plan and an increased tax base through the commercial and residential sites, officials said. A tentative ribboncutting is planned for September 2022. Not all PPPs are immediately viable. In November, a private firm made an unsolicited proposal to form a public-private partnership with the

M A G A Z I N E

N.C. Department of Transportation to replace the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge. The proposal, which included the concept of a toll, was rejected by the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) earlier this summer. WMPO board members indicated they are willing to entertain other options. “This is a significant transportation project between counties, and there has been lots of discussion over the last decade,” Saffo said. “We are all in agreement that the bridge will be replaced, but all of the elected officials have never come together to get a firm understanding of what we want. I hope we can bridge that divide within the next year.” Saffo also said he did not think that tolling an existing roadway was the right precedent to set, adding that he thought a new road could be tolled but not an existing one. Pointing out that COVID has introduced new trends in how people work, transact, travel and consume, the Husch Blackwell trends report on public-private partnerships stated that many of the tasks ahead for cities and states lie in replacing legacy assets and rebuilding infrastructure for growth and prosperity. Based on projects prelaunched in 2020, PPPs for higher education institutions for campus energy as well as telecommunications projects including broadband infrastructure and online platforms are trending. “As with all development, PPPs tend to follow market trends,” Mulligan said. “PPPs with office and hotel components are more difficult to complete right now because private capital is, for the moment, less interested in those projects. On the public side, there is greater interest in affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization. Private sector developers who can respond to that demand may find willing public partners.”


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Chris Ramm, of Ramm Capital Partners, stands inside a speculative industrial building the company recently developed at the Pender Commerce Park.

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D E V E LO P E R S A N D C O M PA N I E S A R E E X PA N D I N G THE REGION’S INDUSTRIAL MARKET

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n 2018, local music supply and manufacturing company Mojotone LLC set up shop in a new building in Burgaw to expand.

“In order for us to grow our business we had to change from a build-it-to-order company to an in-stock, ready-to-ship company. And to do that, we needed space to store inventory and more space for manufacturing,” Mojotone CEO Michael McWhorter recently recalled. The company, which has operated in Pender County since the mid-2000s, didn’t need to venture far from its previous spot in Burgaw. Working with the county, economic developers and other partners, Mojotone found the space it needed in a 46,000-square-foot building in the Pender Industrial Park at 137 Worth Beverage Drive. The move enabled the company to consolidate from three buildings to one location at the 6.3-acre industrial site. “The results were pretty obvious. If you have something in stock, more people are willing to buy it … whether it’s a set of guitar pickups, or an amplifier cabinet, or an amp kit. We saw sales increase about 28% last year. And this year, we’re up about 22% over last year’s increase,” McWhorter said. Staying close to its previous Burgaw operation meant the company could maintain its local employment base and grow it, McWhorter said, adding that Mojotone today has nearly 80 employees. It’s just one of many companies utilizing the tricounty region's industrial resources.

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Mojotone employees work on guitar amplifier cabinets, one of several products the company makes at its Pender Industrial Park manufacturing facility.

From local expansions to headquarters relocations, these industrial sites and buildings are attracting companies old and new. “Shovel-ready sites have historically led to job creation throughout the region – from Sunnyvale and our southern port corridor to U.S. 421, to North Kerr Industrial Park, all the way up to Burgaw,” Wilmington Business Development CEO Scott Satterfield said.

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Two industrial parks in Pender County are paving the way for more businesses, with announcements this year including an expansion of Cardinal Foods’ sweet potato manufacturing operation and a new headquarters building for Polyhose Inc. There are 115 acres left to build out in tracts around Pender Industrial Park. Besides Mojotone and Cardinal Foods, the park has attracted Wilmington Box Co., American Skin and Phoenix Molded Plastics. “With its proximity to the region’s agribusiness resources, Pender Industrial Park offers its own unique assets. Food and beverage processing and light manufacturing are top targets there,” Satterfield said. Across the county line off U.S. 421 is another major industrial asset to Pender County, the county-owned, 330-acre M A G A Z I N E

Pender Commerce Park. “In less than 15 years, Pender Commerce Park has gone from a mere idea to one of North Carolina’s fastest-growing industrial parks,” Satterfield said. “The park has now captured over $115 million in CapEx investment, 800-plus jobs and (more than) 1 million square feet under roof, or being planned … It is well-positioned for additional growth in warehouse/ logistics, assembly, distribution, cold storage, light manufacturing, food processing, etc.” New to the site is the North American headquarters of Polyhose, which opened this year. It also has several other tenants including Coastal Beverage Co., Acme Smoked Fish and Empire Distributors. In another development this year, South Carolina-based RealtyLink announced a $40 million cold storage facility planned for Pender Commerce


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Park. The park has also attracted a developer who brought the region’s first fully developed, modern speculative industrial building. Developed by Ramm Capital Partners, the 127,000-square-foot building recently attracted its first tenant, Atlantic Tire Distributors, which opened a wholesale distribution facility last month and started with 15 jobs. Chris Ramm, manager of the development firm, said the region has been underserved in the larger industrial space market, but that is rapidly changing. At Pender Commerce Park, Ramm is also planning a second spec building, which is in the design and development phase. “We saw the opportunity to come in and develop a building that didn’t exist in the marketplace (at the time). But there was certainly a need,” Ramm said. “Wilmington is behind the Triad, the Charlotte market and Raleigh market as far as the growth. However, we’re teed up … It’s prime for expansion in the industrial market.”

NEW HANOVER COUNTY

Developing the area’s business and industrial parks and a new spec building site are all focuses taking place in New Hanover County. Established industrial parks and corridors in the county – including those in the areas of Northchase, North Kerr Avenue, Dutch Square, U.S. Hwy. 421, Raleigh Street and Sunnyvale – have been home to most of the county’s industrial tenants, Satterfield said. “We expect activity to continue at those locations as we launch initiatives for additional product,” he said. Current priorities include the county-owned, 120-acre Blue Clay Business Park and the 140-acre ILM Business Park and aviation district, which “represent two unique offerings for future clients,” Satterfield said. “Rail service and runway access, in addition to close proximity to the Port of Wilmington, will entice globallyconnected business operations, and we

Anthony Zampino, an employee at Lelandbased Manufacturing Methods, constructs pieces for the company’s dog-wash machines.

are excited to see these properties reach the marketplace,” Satterfield said. The county is investing $3.6 million from federal funds for the extension of water and sewer infrastructure for the Blue Clay Road site. And Wilmington International Airport officials continue to seek offers for sites at the airport’s business park, including finding a developer for a 100room hotel. Just south of the Pender Commerce Park in New Hanover County, another speculative space – with more than 157,000 square feet in the first portion of the Wilmington Trade Center – is in the works from Raleigh-based Edgewater Ventures. The Wilmington Trade Center, a three-building, class A industrial project being built near the interchange of Interstate 140, is expected to eventually include 425,000 square feet in several buildings. “We’re going deliver our building roughly in mid-September,” said Chris Norvell, an industrial partner and principal at Edgewater Ventures. “We feel really good about the activity and the market.” Among Edgewater Ventures’ other projects is the 240,000-square-foot Port

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Logistics Center building off Landmark Drive. Navassa-headquartered Pacon Manufacturing, a business first attracted to Edgewater’s Brunswick County inventory, recently expanded to New Hanover County for warehouse space in a 106,500-square-foot portion at the Port Logistics Center.

BRUNSWICK COUNTY

Expansions and new speculative industrial product are also underway for Brunswick County. Edgewater Ventures’ portfolio in the former U.S. Marine site in Navassa helped bring Pacon’s headquarters relocation and manufacturing operations to Brunswick County. Pacon, which manufactures wipes, pads, towels and liquids for the consumer, industrial and medical industries, has added more than 210 local jobs since its start in Brunswick County in April 2020. Available space like the U.S. Marine building and other older buildings in Brunswick County are among previously existing product in the region that can be adjusted for various industrial reuse, said Bill Early, executive director of Brunswick Business and Industry Development. FA L L 2021

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Manufacturing Methods employee Phil Nadeau operates a CNC press brake machine. The company, which now makes several different products, is housed at the Leland Innovation Park.

There is, however, additional room for newer product to be built for expansions and new operations. A spec building is going up at one of the two 1,000-plus-acre industrial megasites near the Brunswick and Columbus county line. At the International Logistics Park of North Carolina, on U.S. 74/76, two tenants – Precision Swiss Products Inc. and Tri-Tech Forensics – have leased space at the spec building, which is called the International Commerce Center. The development is taking place through Cameron Management, which plans to build up to 300,000 square feet. Precision Swiss Products is expected to bring 125 new jobs and $9.3 million in investment by relocating its California headquarters to Brunswick County. And Tri-Tech Forensics is planning to relocate and grow into a 33,500-square-foot space in the center, moving from its current location in the Leland Innovation Park.

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The Leland Innovation Park, however, has at least one local business growing, along with other activity. Manufacturing Methods is expanding its building footprint at its 14-acre site in the park that houses several of its businesses. The company, in late 2015, started operations in the park by consolidating from two former sites in Leland and one in Wilmington. Manufacturing Methods now also operates Lucid Innovative Technologies and K9000 Dog Wash USA. And this summer, the company also started operations for Stone Methods, a granite and quartz countertop manufacturing business, Manufacturing Methods CEO Pete Peterson said. It’s adding 10,000 square feet to its original building, where it will hold Stone Methods. “As part of the construction, we were able to add three new loading docks at our facility, which we never had before,” Peterson said, adding that the Leland Innovation Park has provided several advantages for the M A G A Z I N E

company’s ability to do business. “To come in with a fresh slate to build new buildings for the sole purpose of each type of business are huge advantages. There are utilities there, and the road access to that area is super easy,” Peterson said. Early said there are discussions to develop industrial parks toward the southern end of the county along the U.S. 17 corridor, which could help stimulate jobs and development in that area. And for the Mid-Atlantic Industrial Rail Park megasite, Brunswick BID aims to help develop the site for potential rail users and clear about 60 acres, Early said. “I feel like we have made huge strides in getting the International Logistics Park off the ground. And we are also going to try to … get MidAtlantic underway,” he said. “I have been a strong proponent that if we can get development going at one of these megasites, it will benefit both of them.”


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any regional employers across a variety of sectors are having trouble finding labor. Meanwhile, others saw an influx of tourists this season because of pent-up demand for tourism on top of a new music and arts venue downtown. COVID mandates, however, are starting to come back to the forefront of discussions as new rules roll out. BY CHRISTINA HALEY

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LABOR SHORTAGE

MANUFACTURING FOCUS

It’s a job-seekers market, but some employers are just not seeing a rush of people to fill much-needed positions across the region, said Erin Easton, business engagement manager with the Cape Fear Workforce Development Board. “It’s really running the gamut across all industries – manufacturing; health care is starting to reach out to us more about finding candidates,” Easton said. “And of course, the hospitality industry (continues) to have a hard time finding enough workers.” Job fairs have been hosted this year for employers to seek quality candidates, including some put on through the Cape Fear Workforce Development Board. This summer, the city of Wilmington hosted its own job fair – the first in 10 years – to fill several empty positions, including those in public safety. And Novant Health and NHRMC also hosted job fairs looking for hundreds of qualified candidates. Many employers in the region are also offering a referral bonus for new staffers, and businesses are adjusting applicant requirements. Easton said, “The good thing, is that we’re seeing your employers are rethinking the exact skill set they need for someone to start, especially in an entry-level position.” M A G A Z I N E

While labor shortages also remain a concern for some area manufacturers, a group of about 30 companies has come together under the Cape Fear Manufacturing Partnership to provide collaborative support and help build the talent pipeline in the region. The group is working to address key issues of concern for area manufacturers. Those participating companies – including HSM Machine Works, Mojotone, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Pacon Manufacturing, Polyhose and Acme Smoked Fish – started meeting this year. “No short-term fixes yet, but they’re very forward-thinking and understanding that we need to have a pipeline for the future,” said Erin Easton, who helped organize the group. The group’s main goal is to elevate industry perception of manufacturing and develop a workforce that views manufacturing as a viable career, Mojotone CEO Michael McWhorter said. The partnership is working on talking with the area’s colleges and getting into K-12 schools to help develop more interest. “I think for other manufacturers coming into our area, to know that this exists, just to have a pool of people that you could collaborate with … I think that’s invaluable,” McWhorter said. “I’ve been here since 2005, and I’ve never really had these many resources.”


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BACK ON STAGE

VACCINES IN THE WORKPLACE

IMPROVEMENTS BY SEA, BY FLIGHT

COVID-related mandates such as those, in the health care and government sectors, could become more commonplace for private employers. Gov. Roy Cooper announced in late July that employees of state cabinet agencies who were not vaccinated were required to wear face coverings and be tested at least once a week. The move for state employees took effect this month after cases of COVID increased across the state. Meanwhile, the governor recommended that private employers also consider similar measures. Health care systems Novant Health and Atrium Health are requiring vaccinations for their workers. The Sept. 15 mandate for Novant includes employees at New Hanover Regional Medical Center and Novant Brunswick Medical Center. It’s also required at their clinics and outpatient facilities. New Hanover County officials required county employees to report their vaccination status by Sept. 1, with those not vaccinated undergoing weekly COVID testing and new hires being required to be fully vaccinated – allowing for medical and religious exemptions. Rules for countywide indoor face coverings in public places including businesses and offices went into effect in August.

The Wilmington International Airport (ILM) and the Port of Wilmington are changing their landscapes in separate capital projects. This year, N.C. Ports will finish the Port of Wilmington’s South Gate project and its truck lanes. That project is expected to wrap up and be operational by October. The port’s container operations building was completed in early August, at which time its new terminal operating system also went live. The projects are part of N.C. Ports’ more than $221 million capital improvement plan, which has previously brought several upgrades including turning basin expansions, new cranes and a new refrigerated container yard over the years. At ILM, work continues on the third phase of a $61 million airport terminal expansion and renovation project. The final piece to the threephase project is the largest portion of the work and covers adding space for the terminal, concessions and retail. Previous phases have upgraded space as well as added new ticket counters and TSA check lanes. Between phases two and three of the work, ILM added 78,000 square feet. The project is on track to be completed by the end of 2022.

National entertainment company Live Nation is making an impact with recent shows at both the 900-seat Greenfield Lake Amphitheater and the new 7,200-person Live Oak Bank Pavilion, which opened in Riverfront Park this summer. “My perspective is to have one of those iconic venues, any city would die for. But to have two of them, one on the lake and one on the Cape Fear River … is a dream come true,” Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo said. “People love outdoor music, and it is resonating throughout the entire area.” The downtown venue attracted acts such as Widespread Panic, Miranda Lambert and Train this summer. Incoming acts are helping to fill hotels, restaurants, bars and bottle shops in surrounding neighborhoods. Tourism officials said it’s bringing more demand to the entire region. “I think it’s only going to get better,” Saffo said. “I think that Live Nation knows this market very well.” The effects of the COVID-19 delta variant, however, remain to be seen on ticket sales. Starting Oct. 4, Live Nation Entertainment will start requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test at shows at all of its U.S. venues, including the Wilmington sites it manages.

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Four years after the state started issuing licenses to industrial hemp growers, North Carolina’s pilot program wraps up this year. During that time, the industry ballooned in the state. But what’s next for the emerging crop?

NC HEMP FARM

harvesting HEMP BY JOHANNA CANO PHOTOS BY ARIS HARDING & TERAH WILSON

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hen Jason Simmons lost his job as a firefighter due to asthma, he was left unable to provide for his family and experiencing chronic pain, inflammation and anxiety.

His wife, Audria, sought to find answers for her family’s health. She began researching CBD, a type of cannabinoid that can be extracted from both the hemp and marijuana plant (two different names for the cannabis plant) that is promoted to help relieve pain, depression, anxiety and several other conditions. “He was very sick and could not get out of bed,” Audria Simmons said. “We used some CBD for his anxiety and panic attacks (from) not knowing how to provide for his family, and it

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was working.” At the same time, due to her growing knowledge of CBD, she was approached to work at a CBD dispensary that opened in Southeastern North Carolina where she was able to talk to companies, learn what was in the products and what it took for the product to work, she said. In 2017, and with $60, she started Bethesda Hemp from her home in Burgaw where she cold-presses hemp to make CBD oil. FA L L 2021

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The Simmonses were part of a group of early adopters in the state who delved into the hemp industry when it became legal. In 2014, the N.C. Industrial Hemp Pilot Program was authorized, and in 2017 the Industrial Hemp Commission adopted rules that included guidelines on approved seeds, THC sampling, reporting requirements and more. The market was further unlocked when the 2018 Farm Bill removed cannabis and cannabis derivatives that have low levels of THC (a cannabinoid that gives people a high) from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, legalizing hemp-based products at the federal level. Now, as the state’s hemp industry continues to gain popularity, both from entrepreneurs and users seeking results, many are finding that lack of regulations and volatility in the hemp crop are causing a setback in the emerging market. Justin Hamilton is another early adopter in the state’s hemp industry. Hamilton is the founder of Wilmington-based Hempleton Investment Group, which has several brands under its umbrella, including HOPE Hemp Extracts, Legacy Farms Cannabis, The Hemp Farmacy, Prolifera and Prohibition Spa Skin Care. Hamilton was previously in real estate, redeveloping historical properties until 2008 when the real estate market collapsed, prompting him to find another venture. “I started flying into Colorado, and as that marijuana program was developing, I made some investments in small startups,” Hamilton said. “And what that did for me was gave me a base of knowledge on how cannabis would help people but also how the structure of cannabis companies and a cannabis state program would look.” M A G A Z I N E

Hamilton formed the Hempleton portfolio in December of 2015, which involved a year of talking to attorneys. A lot of the early involvements of the company were in lobbying and being an active participant during the development of the state’s rules. Companies under Hempleton include a firm creating tinctures through extraction, an in-house product line with several storefronts and the NC Hemp Farm in Wallace, which grows hemp and provides a space for research and innovation. “Our goal was to create a vertical portfolio that allowed us to have our own research arm, production farms, multiple extraction facilities, and then to build out the distribution center and the distribution network, and finally the retail storefronts,” he said. With The Hemp Farmacy opening its eighth location, Hempleton has experienced growth in the industry. Hamilton said, however, that one of the biggest challenges has been a lack of proper regulation. “That (deregulation) enables a lot of short-term-gain mindset for people. They’re creating fake brands. We see this in our stores regularly. People bring products in, and they’re like, ‘This stuff just doesn’t seem to work well.’ That’s because there’s no CBD in it,” Hamilton said. “Our biggest problem is that you have such a tainted marketplace for the products that a lot of people are trying CBD or what they think is CBD, and it’s not working and they’re not really retrying it or getting properly educated about what to look for,” he added. The FDA has not approved a marketing application for cannabis for the treatment of any disease or condition, except for one cannabisderived and three cannabis-related drug products only available with a prescription. While the FDA has not banned all edible CBD products, it has warned manufacturers who have


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made unapproved health claims for their CBD products or who have misrepresented CBD amounts. Currently, the best way to see the legitimacy of a product is to look for lab testing associated with each batch, Hamilton said. Another element that has caused a setback for the hemp industry is an overproduction of hemp crops that created what Hamilton referred to as a “collapse” in the agricultural side in 2019. In 2016, as the state started its hemp program, there were only a couple other states that had a program that allowed the plant’s growth for the production of CBD. “We had a really strategic advantage for a couple of years. The state program went from a couple hundred farmers to almost 1,900 farmers, and those farmers, instead of

growing research plots to understand how to grow the plant, saw dollar signs and they overplanted,” Hamilton said. “These guys went in for 50 acres for their first production, which was extremely risky, but it also created such an oversupply of hemp that it drove the price from $4 a pound to 22 cents a pound currently.” At its Aug. 5 meeting, the N.C. Industrial Hemp Commission shared that the state currently has 1,500 licensed industrial hemp growers, representing 14,016 acres and nearly 6.9 million square feet of greenhouse production. There are currently 1,295 registered processors. According to minutes from the commission’s June 1 meeting, Chairman Tom Melton said there is an overabundance of CBD, and that has driven prices down. Also, in a December meeting, Commissioner

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Pat Short noted that the CBD market is flooded with a massive amount of biomass with no market. He recommended that before someone grows hemp, they have a contract that is reviewed by lawyers before investing. Further adding to what the commission describes as a “gray area” in the hemp market is the discovery of other cannabinoids, such as Delta-8, CBN, CBG, CBC and others. More than 100 cannabinoids have been identified. Delta-8 has recently become popular because of its similarity to Delta-9 THC, giving users a milder, but similar high that THC provides. The legality of Delta-8 is hazy, which like CBD can also be extracted from either hemp or cannabis plants. In an April meeting, Melton noted that Delta-8 seems to be gaining popularity, but he recommended that FA L L 2021

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growers seek legal counsel to discuss gray areas of this product. Commissioners also announced the N.C. Industrial Hemp Pilot Program would end Dec. 31. Under the 2018 Agricultural Improvement Act, the USDA was tasked with creating a program to govern hemp production nationwide. North Carolina submitted a letter to USDA stating it intends for USDA to run the hemp program in the state. North Carolina growers will need to apply to the USDA’s hemp program to continue to grow next year. The state might be seeing another phase in the cannabis industry with the legalization of medical marijuana under Senate Bill 711, sponsored by N.C. Sens. Bill Rabon and Michael Lee, both area Republicans representing the region in Raleigh. According to the latest version of the bill, on which no decision had been made as of press time and which has undergone several text changes, medical marijuana could be prescribed by a licensed medical provider for those with a diagnosis of cancer, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, PTSD, multiple sclerosis and other “serious

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or debilitating medical conditions.” Some feel this is not inclusive enough. “One of the biggest disservices with this bill to the people is that they did not list chronic pain as a condition. I thought they’re supposed to be fighting the opioid battle. People don’t take pain pills for headaches,” said Jason Simmons, of Bethesda Hemp. The Simmonses think that the bill is too restrictive, only allowing up to 10 supplier licenses in the state with each licensed supplier having up to four medical cannabis centers. “I think it’s too narrow, and I think it drops the people that have really worked hard in the hemp industry of having a chance of being in that industry,” Audria Simmons said. Under the bill, first-year licenses include a nonrefundable fee of $50,000 plus $5,000 for each production facility. Renewals would be $10,000 and $1,000 per facility. Lee, who is opposed to recreational marijuana, said this is the “right time” for the measure. “There’s been evidence across the U.S. and around the world that (marijuana) is effective in treating

M A G A Z I N E

certain symptoms of debilitating conditions, and so now seems to be the appropriate time to move forward with it,” he said. The proposed bill limits licenses to 10 to be able to start with the right structure, Lee said. “We’re creating a whole new regulatory framework, and it seems to be appropriate to start at that level to make sure that we’ve got the right framework in place for regulating medical marijuana,” he said. With the bill language still being worked on and the current Senate session ending soon, Lee said it will probably not move out of the chamber until next summer. For Chelsey Peterson, co-founder of Huckleberry Hemp Farms in Willard, regulations on who can participate in the medical marijuana program allow a more controlled growth of the market. “I’m fine with the restriction because I know it will expand eventually, and it’ll be better for the market when it does,” she said. Peterson, along with her boyfriend, Tripp Livingston, and her parents, Dwayne and Brenda Peterson,


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started Huckleberry in 2019 after Livingston moved to California to learn about the cannabis industry. The farm currently has five greenhouses where the team typically grows 100 plants per greenhouse, harvesting three times a year. Huckleberry also processes the plant in its lab and creates products including CBD oil, lotion, bath bombs, capsules and pet treats. Livingston said they pride themselves on growing hemp using organic practices. “We use what’s called a compost tea to feed; we use natural remedies for repellents, and it’s just a completely organic farm,” he said. The Huckleberry team has also experienced the issues that the lack of regulations has brought. “There’s a lot of hemp products on the market that I’ll have no issue saying are snake oil. It should be illegal for people to do what’s going on in the hemp industry,” Livingston said. “It hurts the people like us that really pride ourselves on a pure product.” While the business is young, Huckleberry has grown its customer base from locals to across many states, and Chelsea Peterson said they hope to open a storefront. She, like the Simmonses and Hamilton, believe that more regulations would help those in the industry continue to grow and provide a better product for clients. “The testimonials we get from people that are really suffering from bad health conditions saying, ‘Before I was lying in bed all day. Now I’m able to get up and go do something.’ To be able to give someone a measure of their old life back, you can’t put a price on that,” Jason Simmons said. “It’s not going to cure them, but to be able to offer people something that actually helps them and helps make their life a little bit better under incredibly difficult circumstances to me is priceless, and that’s really the heart behind why we are in this game.” w i l m i n g t o n b i z m a g a z i n e . c o m

COMPANIES OF ALL SIZES CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

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FA L L 2021

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How can Wilmington achieve an

INCLUSIVE ECONOMY? “The events that affect

communities, from pandemics to hurricanes, are often acute on chronic. They exacerbate existing disparities and lay bare the underlying systemic problems, demonstrated in both the data and the lived experience — the true narrative of neighborhoods, systems, and people.” -Patrick Brien CEO Cape Fear Collective

Cape Fear Collective, with support from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and collaboration among multiple partners at the regional and state level, set out to better understand economic drivers of health and prosperity. The full report will be released in September of 2021, but here are some initial insights.

capefearcollective.org/inclusive-economy Visit CapeFearCollective.org to view Viewthe theInclusive InclusiveEconomy EconomyReport Report

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Less Pay

White, Non-Hispanic males earn significantly more than any other demographic group in the county, with racial, ethnic, and gender disparities growing throughout the region.

Equal Pay

Hispanic Female - $26,561 less Hispanic Male - $24,224 less A Hispanic female in New Hanover County earns, on average, $26,561 less than a White, Non-Hispanic male

Black Female - $21,207 less Black Male - $16,318 less

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e-economy

y Report

Housing prices in the region have remained relatively flat and below the state median. New Hanover County, however, is much higher than the state and increasing steadily as home ownership gets further out of reach for many. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator (2017), childcare costs in New Hanover County would require 61.8% of a minimum wage ($7.25/hr) earner’s income.

House Price Index (adjusted for inflation)

2019 Median Earnings Gap of Full-Time Workers in New Hanover County as compared to White, Non-Hispanic Males. US Census Bureau. (2019). American Community Survey 5-Year Detailed Tables.

$300,000

$250,000

New Hanover County

$200,000

State Median

$150,000

Rest of Cape Fear Region 2010

2014

2018

Federal Housing Finance Agency. (2010-2019). House Price Index.

The hourly wage necessary to afford a 2BR home in New Hanover County is $20.56, well above the $13.95 earned by the average renter in the county. U.S.Census Bureau. (2019). National Low Income Housing Coalition. (2021).

1 in 3 people living in the Southside of Wilmington do not have access to a vehicle, making work, medical visits, shopping, and other household chores difficult and expensive. U.S.Census Bureau. (2019).

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Two children growing up in poverty in the Creekwood neighborhood have very different economic outcomes as adults, depending on their race. $20k

$30k

$40k

$26,500 The median income of a Black person who grew up in poverty in Creekwood is $26,500.

$50k

$45,700

Black

White

The median income of a White person who grew up in poverty in Creekwood is $45,700.

This pattern persists for every tract in New Hanover County, with Black children having less upward mobility. $20k

$30k

Black

?

In many downtown Wilmington neighborhoods, the typical household is struggling to meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard*.

$40k

$50k

White

Meanwhile, much of the coast earns $30,000 to $60,000 more than the Self-Sufficiency Standard.

The median income in many Wilmington neighborhoods is between $30,000 and $60,000 lower than the Self-Sufficency Standard for the county.

Median Household Income >$30k Below SSS >$30k Above SSS U.S. Census Bureau. (2019). American Community Survey. University of Washington. (2020). Self-Sufficiency Standard.

Opportunity Insights. (2018). The Opportunity Atlas. U.S. Census Bureau. (2019). American Community Survey.

*The Self-Sufficiency Standard, developed by the University of Washington, defines the amount of income necessary to meet basic needs without public subsidies and private/informal assistance.

For many people in New Hanover County, even being the top earner within their profession still leaves them well short of reaching the annual income necessary to meet the Self-Sufficiency Standard*. IQR of Yearly Wage (2019) for select industries in New Hanover County. North Carolina Department of Commerce. (2019). OEWS Series. University of Washington. (2020). Self-Sufficiency Standard.

$50,000

Self-Sufficiency Standard 1 Adult, 1 Child New Hanover County $48,052

Carpenters

Nursing Assistants

Firefighters

Sponsors' Content brought to you by Cape Fear Collective

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$40,000

$30,000

Restaurant Waitstaff Preschool Teachers

$20,000

to o


on the

ch of

000

urvey. ndard.

t of ce.

NOVEMBER 6

Wilmington, NC and Remote Join us as technologists and subject matter experts come together to understand how data can inform the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem. Teams will analyze data related to the following sectors: Ocean engineering and marine robotics Sustainable aquaculture and fisheries Marine biotechnology Tourism, recreation, and hospitality Coastal conservation and resilience

Please visit capefearcollective.org/hackblue to register

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BRAINSTORMING

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BY LYNDA VAN KUREN

ar from the stuff of fantasy, artificial intelligence (AI) has become an integral part of our lives.

Even the most tech-adverse among us use AI, perhaps unknowingly, when we type a query into Google or plug in GPS. Those who embrace technology, on the other hand, actively look for ways AI can improve their work and personal lives. Though it seems AI is a new phenomenon, the technology has been around since 1956. While AI’s popularity has waxed and waned, it gained legitimacy in the 1990s and 2000s when a chess computer program beat the grand chess master Garry Kasparov and speech recognition software was installed on Windows. The factor that made these innovations possible was the ability of computers to store and process ever-larger amounts of information. Today we are in the era of “big data,” and while AI seems ubiquitous, it is just beginning to reveal its full potential. AI is expected to have global as well as individual impact in the future – if it hasn’t already. “You can learn very quickly from data when you build models to make better decisions,” said David Reeser, CEO and cofounder of the Wilmington-based AI company OpiAID. “AI and the Internet of Things (all objects connected to the internet) is the next industrial revolution.”

W H A T E X A C T LY I S A I ?

Simply put, AI is machines performing

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tasks that require intelligence such as reasoning, learning from experience and making decisions. Within AI are different subsets. One is machine learning, which is when machines are programmed to use data and algorithms to make predictions. When a retail store predicts items a person will like based on their past purchases, it is using machine learning. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning. In deep learning, the algorithms are complex and abstract, which enables a machine to continuously analyze and learn from the data by itself. Examples of deep learning are facial recognition and programs that identify credit card fraud in real time. Deep learning is the technology behind the explosion of AI applications.

A WORLD OF OPPORTUNITY

AI is used in virtually every industry. While AI has made substantive inroads in finance, fintech and health care, other industries are not far behind. AI is being applied in fields as varied as sales and marketing, resource management, climate change, hospitality, transportation, insurance, education, customer service and construction, among others. “Any industry that collects large amounts of data can use AI,” said Alan Rupp, CEO of the AI company SentryTell, which is located in Wilmington. The opportunities AI presents extend to individuals and small businesses as well. Phil Everhart, the president and founder of SmartFox Technologies, another Wilmington-based AI business, asserts that whenever there is a specific problem that can be solved by analyzing large amounts of data, it has the potential for an AI solution. As a sampling of Wilmington’s AI companies show, the problems solved by AI technology are quite diverse: New Hanover


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Regional Medical Center uses Viz LVO’s AI technology to identify strokes; SmartFox uses AI for sales forecasting; SentryTell, to monitor seniors in their homes and alert caregivers when something is awry; OpiAID, to assist those in recovery; and Lapetus Solutions, to provide risk assessment and advice. AI technology, however, doesn’t just help businesses. It’s also behind innovations such as self-directed vacuum cleaners and tools like Alexa that individuals use in their daily lives.

TO TAKE THE AI P LU N G E O R WA I T

REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT AND BROKERAGE Retail I Office I Multi-Family I Healthcare

TRASKLANDCO.COM 910.799.8755

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A number of large companies have already brought AI into their business processes, either by partnering with organizations that use AI tools or by building their own AI technology teams, according to Reeser. A survey by NewVantage Partners reports that nine of 10 leading businesses have invested in AI technologies. The story is different for smalland mid-sized companies. If the technology these businesses need is currently available, which depends on a specific market, they may move ahead with AI, Reeser said. Otherwise, most small- and medium-sized businesses are waiting to see how advantageous AI is before investing in it. But Everhart expects that will change within the next three years. He predicts that even local businesses, such as a restaurant or a business offering a consumer-based product, will adopt AI if it can improve profitability and help owners make better decisions – especially if the business is competing against a big organization like Walmart. “Once AI takes off and small businesses see its success, everyone will want to be a part of it,” Everhart said. “Small companies will want to follow big business’s success, so they get a piece of the local pie.”


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David Reeser is CEO of the Wilmington-based AI company OpiAID, which uses data and technology to assist Medication-Assisted Treatment rehab centers. photo by Michael Cline Spencer

FEARS AND DOUBTS

Despite its promise, AI is not without its critics. People fear that AI could incur the loss of privacy, racial profiling, information bias and the elimination of jobs. AI proponents stress that these issues are not indigenous to AI and that businesses can minimize the problems. As an example, AI data hacks are less likely to occur if the information is stored on secure, cloud-based systems that have layers of encryption, such as those provided by large companies, Rupp said. The issue of faulty data will be addressed by the market, according to Everhart. Products that use imprecise data will fail, he said. “You can’t have 40% accuracy with AI,” Everhart said. “You must make sure the data is accurate. If not, companies won’t adopt the product.” And AI likely will replace some jobs, especially those that are repetitive and mundane, but it will also create new ones. The World Economic Forum predicts that AI will eliminate 85 million jobs and create 97 million new jobs by 2025 – a gain of 12 million jobs.

Everhart said he expects that at some point the federal government will develop regulations to ensure AI is used responsibly and ethically.

I S W I L M I N GT O N T H E NEXT AI HUB?

While a recent study by Indeed Hiring Lab showed that major cities are maintaining their status as AI hubs, smaller cities with the right ecosystems are gaining traction. And Wilmington has many of the elements that attract AI businesses. That fact was recognized by Startup Genome, which ranked Wilmington as one of the top 100 best emerging technology ecosystems in the world. One factor that earns Wilmington that rating is that it already has a spot on the technology map, said Jim Roberts, founder of Wilmington’s Network for Entrepreneurs and Wilmington Angels for Local Entrepreneurs. In addition to technology companies such as nCino and Playerspace, the area boasts a number of AI startups, he adds. Wilmington also has a strong and growing pool of talent, which

w i l m i n g t o n b i z m a g a z i n e . c o m

is important because it enables techies to share ideas and support each other. The Wilmington tech community includes technology students graduating from the University of North Carolina Wilmington; technology graduates from universities in the surrounding cities who are locating here; and the growing number of UNCW graduates who have moved away, gained experience and returned to the area, Roberts said. Additionally, Wilmington is also attracting technology experts from Silicon Valley and other technology centers who can work remotely. Wilmington might also see an influx of tech workers who will be working at Apple’s future headquarters in Raleigh, Reeser said. Another contributor to Wilmington’s standing as an AI hub is its covey of retired executives who are eager to mentor technology entrepreneurs, according to Roberts. As AI progresses, it will have a significant impact on quality of life, Rupp said. “The more sophisticated AI gets, the more we can rely on it to make our day-to-day lives better.” FA L L 2021

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OUR NEW EVENT VENUE AND TEMPORARY TAPROOM

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Host a variety of celebrations Indoor/outdoor space with garage-style doors Family-friendly atmosphere with games Cozy lounge areas and patio seating Tables for enjoying food trucks Choose from 15 drafts, 4-pack cans, wine, flights, and various draft sizes

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800 S KERR AVE / WILMINGTON, NC 28403 / (910) 392-3315 / WILMINGTONBREWINGCOMPANY.COM

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WilmingtonBiz MAGAZINE

EVENT 2021

PLAN N I N G

Photo courtesy of Embassy Suites

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A meeting space overlooking the Cape Fear River at the Embassy Suites in downtown Wilmington. Photo courtesy of Embassy Suites

I N N O V AT I N G E V E N T S Flexibility and Technology Are Key for Event Planners People in the Wilmington region are more excited than ever to connect, talk business and return to in-person gatherings, now that we’re approximately 70 years into the pandemic. While that estimate may be slightly exaggerated, the weariness of being trapped behind Zoom screens and navigating safety restrictions is very real. Luckily, local event planners with a thirst for serving up new connections and revitalizing old relationships have a variety of options as local event facilities and vendors are responding to their needs with flexibility, new technology savvy and compassion. 62

“Covid has been hard on restaurants and the event business,” said Jud Watkins, owner of Wrightsville Beach Brewery. “However, being hard to work with regarding deposits isn’t going to help the situation. We have made an effort to be as easy to work with as possible and generous with refunds and 95 percent of the time, we retain the business, just at a later date.” Brookes Musser, owner of Captain Bill’s Backyard Grill and Volleyball Facility, echoed the sentiment: “Kindness, flexibility and seeing the big picture are so important right now. With the constant changes in regulations and mandates, we are very fortunate to be able to offer multiple indoor and outdoor areas for parties and events.”

2021 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE

Photo courtesy of 128 South Events Catering

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COMMUNICATIONS PAVE THE WAY FOR SUCCESS

Musser added that her business has adapted by assisting with individually plating meals instead of buffet lines. Another key for her has been to provide clients with consistent communications regarding updates and changes.

an in-person experience or virtual meeting is not going away. Lee Campbell, director of meetings and events for the Cape Fear Realtors, believes event planners need to talk with their clients about the importance of learning about and investing in the latest hi-tech virtual meeting technologies.

Larger events recently returned to the Wilmington Convention Center. Photo courtesy of Wilmington Convention Center

Christie Bazemore, co-founder of 128 South and Bakery 105, also noted an increase in plated dinner services and the importance of ongoing communications. “Regarding food and beverage, we have moved towards offering individual servings for appetizers such as mini-charcuterie plates at each guest’s seat or an assortment of individual box lunch options for our corporate guests,” said Bazemore. Technology, she noted, has been an integral part of the process to keep people connected, adding options that weren’t previously available. “We have leveraged social media to share hybrid event moments and memories. For example, setting up a Facebook Live offering during a ceremony for guests, like grandparents, who are unable to attend the event in person,” Bazemore said.

VIRTUAL OFFERINGS THE NEW NORM

Many believe that using technology as a means of providing an option for either

“This Covid period has taught the event industry that we need to meet smarter,” she said. “Even if Covid runs its course, the meeting industry will not return to in-person meetings only. Hybrid 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.” For many, a virtual meeting is preferable to the in-person experience. Their thinking is that virtual get-togethers provide a means of avoiding traffic congestion and other hassles associated with physical meetings. “While in-person events can be rich, personable experiences, we have also found that virtual events can be more inclusive and reach broader audiences,” said Heather McWhorter, interim director of the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Designing the event for success, no matter how it is delivered, is critical. UNCW CIE’s Event Space has the technology available to help event

2021 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE

planners plan for in-person and hybrid meetings.”

THE TRIED-AND-TRUE REMAINS IMPORTANT

Though most agree that technology is here to stay, old-fashioned attributes such as listening, communicating and planning have been listed as essential strategies for success among those in the local events industry. “We have listened to the concerns and challenges facing event planners in the Wilmington area and our focus is to be an accommodating partner to help them achieve their customers’ satisfaction,” said Girard Newkirk, co-founder of Genesis Block. “Everyone is having to make quick decisions in order to accommodate events,” added Musser. “Communication is the key and when that communication is friendly, it helps everything run a lot smoother for all involved.” Bazemore explained that accommodating safety measures is easier when the arrangements are planned for and communicated: “Our advice for event planners amid Covid (and moving forward) is working to seamlessly integrate the new

Photo courtesy of Embassy Suites

norms of sanitation or technology into the event. When the sanitation station or webcam feels like it’s supposed to be there because it was intentionally included in the design and layout, the overall guest experience improves.” Most agree that the key to success boils down to being proactive and flexible. As McWhorter succinctly points out, “Event planners should have contingency plans. Hoping for the best is not a good strategy for ensuring a successful event.”

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The Coastal Entrepreneur Awards were held August 6 at UNCW’s Burney Center to recognize local companies and non-profits in 11 categories as well as Chamber of Commerce winners. The top prize, the 2021 Coastal Entrepreneur of the Year, went to Danielle Mahon of Topsail Steamer (pictured in the circle with the CEA Surfboard).

PRESENTING SPONSORS

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WilmingtonBiz After Hours took place June 24 at Waterman’s Brewing. To stay informed about upcoming Business Journal events, register for emails at WilmingtonBiz.com and follow us on Facebook.

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EVENT P L A N N I N G

G U I D E

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 these events together. The following is a sampling of venues and services in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties.

DOWNTOWN BELLAMY MANSION MUSEUM

BURGWIN-WRIGHT HOUSE AND GARDENS

OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 150 ONSITE PARKING: YES

CAPACITY: 130

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.

128 SOUTH

CFCC WILSON CENTER

910.399.1709 128southevents.com 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

910.777.9701 atriumwilmington.com 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

BATTLESHIP NORTH CAROLINA

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OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 1,559 ONSITE PARKING: YES

(OPENING SOON) 910.377.7600 aloftwilmingtonnc.com Connected to the Riverwalk with ideal accommodations for either the business or leisure traveler. Includes over 10,000 square feet of versatile meeting, banquet and event space. IN-HOUSE CATERING CAPACITY: 455 ONSITE PARKING: YES

910.399.9100 battleshipnc.com 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

910.362.7999 wilsoncentertickets.com State-of-the-art performance space with options to rent the main hall, lobby or both areas.

ALOFT WILMINGTON AT COASTLINE CENTER

THE ATRIUM BY LIGON FLYNN

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.

910.859.4165 brooklynartsnc.com Historic repurposed church with 60-foot cathedral ceilings, a stage and a refurbished 1910 onsite schoolhouse (The Annex).

2021 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE

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 ON-SITE PARKING

CITY CLUB OF WILMINGTON

THE BROOKLYN ARTS CENTER & THE ANNEX

OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 400 ONSITE PARKING: NO

CFCC UNION STATION

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

EMBASSY SUITES BY HILTON WILMINGTON RIVERFRONT 910.765.1131

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embassysuiteswilmington.com Hotel 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: 375 ON-SITE PARKING: YES

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

IRONCLAD BREWERY

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

WILMINGTON CONVENTION CENTER

910.251.5101 wilmingtonconventions.com The largest of its kind on the N.C. coast. Can accommodate guests for a variety of private VIP and large-scale public events in its flexible spaces, including a Grand Ballroom and Exhibit Hall. IN-HOUSE CATERING CAPACITY: 1,750 (EXHIBIT HALL) ONSITE PARKING: YES

GENESIS BLOCK 910.228.9331 genesisblockilm.com Provides business development services, workspaces and build entrepreneurial communities. OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 225 ONSITE PARKING: NO

Wilmington’s Most Unique Historic Venue STATION NO. 2 919.749.0330 stationno2.com Station No.2 is Downtown Wilmington's most charming boutique event venue. The 1915 firestation offers an unpretentious yet sophisticated event center perfect for weddings, rehearsal dinners, corporate parties, and any kind special occasion. This event space is unique as it can be decorated accordingly to throw formal events or enjoyed in a more casual setting. OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 89 DOWNSTAIRS, 49 UPSTAIRS AND 75 IN THE COURTYARD

HOTEL BALLAST

910.763.5900 hotelballast.com Boasts the largest ballroom on the Wilmington

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.

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

Weddings | Rehearsal Dinners | Celebrations StationNo2.com | 919.749.0330 602 S. 5th Avenue | Wilmington, NC 28401

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W

ith two diverse venues, a charming bridal suite, on-site lodging, and a full-service catering company…our corner of Wilmington has everything you need to make planning your wedding day or any special event seamless and truly memorable. Both of the venues boast indoor and outdoor event space, each with its own architectural features, historic charm and modern amenities. We are proud to offer on-site and off-site catering services, flexible booking options, wedding packages - big and small, exceptional food, five-star customer service, and true Southern hospitality.

LET US

CATER

YOUR NEXT EVENT!

Call 910.399.1709 for details.

BOOK A

TOUR

OR GIVE US A CALL TO SEE FOR YOURSELF.

You won’t be disappointed.

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128 South | Bakery 105 The Cottage on Orange Street info@128southevents.com 2021 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE I MARKETING SECTION 910.399.1709 | 128southevents.com


W R I G H T S V I L L E B E A C H & M AY FA I R E AIRLIE GARDENS

910.798.7700 airliegardens.org 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 RESORT

877.684.8009 blockade-runner.com Wrightsville Beach hotel with all-waterfront 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)

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 2,000-square-foot meeting space.

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

910.256.4519 thebridgetender.com Fine dining establishment on the Intracoastal Waterway with a board room and private events room.

910.256.2231 wrightsville.holidayinnresorts.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

910.791.7272 hilton.com Hotel located between Mayfaire Town Center and Wrightsville Beach with a 1,000-square-foot meeting space. OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 120 ONSITE PARKING: YES

OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 150

COUNTRY CLUB OF LANDFALL

OCEANIC RESTAURANT

2021 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE

910.473.5550 terracesonsirtyler.com Event facility named for its two rooftop terraces that includes a grand ballroom, conference rooms, atrium water features and cutting-edge technological capabilities. OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 450 (BALLROOM); 240 (OUTDOOR TERRACE) ONSITE PARKING: NO

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)

WRIGHTSVILLE MANOR AND GARDENS

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

THE TERRACES ON SIR TYLER

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH BREWERY

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.

IN-HOUSE CATERING CAPACITY: 200

910.256.8411 countrycluboflandfall.com 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

IN-HOUSE CATERING (LIMITED) CAPACITY: 300 (LARGEST ROOM) ONSITE PARKING: YES

HOLIDAY INN RESORT WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH

NEW HANOVER COUNTY ARBORETUM

BRIDGE TENDER

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 CAPACITY: 90 (MEETING ROOM) ONSITE PARKING: YES

HOMEWOOD SUITES BY HILTON WILMINGTON

BLUEWATER WATERFRONT GRILL

SHELL ISLAND RESORT

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

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Wilmington’s Premier Corporate & Event Venue

Allow our expertise to guide your experience to offer an unforgettable memory while providing exception value.

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PLEASURE ISLAND ATLANTIC TOWERS

910.458.8313 atlantic-towers.com Eleven-story oceanside condominium complex offering unique one- and two-bedroom 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)

IN-HOUSE CATERING CAPACITY: 300

FORT FISHER AIR FORCE RECREATION AREA 910.458.6549 ftfishermilrec.com 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

BEAU RIVAGE GOLF & RESORT

910.392.9021 beaurivagegolf.com 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

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

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.

HAMPTON INN & SUITES CAROLINA BEACH OCEANFRONT

OUTSIDE CATERING

OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 50

CAROLINA BEACH STATE PARK

KURE BEACH COMMUNITY CENTER

910.458.8206 ncparks.gov/visit/parks/cabe/main Campsite and marina with onsite cabins, hiking trails and a classroom and auditorium available for half- and full-day rental. CAPACITY: 65 (AUDITORIUM) OUTSIDE CATERING

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.

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.

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

LAZY PIRATE SPORTS GRILL

a casual atmosphere and outdoor seating. sOffers 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 behind-the-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

910.707.0533 seawitchtikibar.com 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 ground-floor event space, upstairs preparation room and lighted patio. Offers flexible packages based on specific events. OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 175

910.458.5299 lazypiratesportsgrill.com Restaurant and bar in Carolina Beach with

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MIDTOWN BURNEY CENTER AT UNCW

910.962.4150 uncw.edu/campuslife/services 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

FLYING MACHINE BREWING CO.

HAMPTON INN WILMINGTON-MEDICAL PARK

CAPACITY: 250

OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 150

910.769.8173 flyingmachine.beer Audacious innovation with reverence for tradition. We blend the old world and the new through innovation, technique and tradition. We strive to create the best ales, lagers and mixed culture fermentation beers.

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.

SCOTTISH RITE TEMPLE

910.762.6452 wilmingtonaasr.org Freemason lodge available to rent for parties, business meetings, weddings, plays and other functions. Features a large dining room and auditorium, as well as a 10-seat conference room.

CAMERON ART MUSEUM

910.395.5999 cameronartmuseum.org 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

UNCW CENTER FOR INNOVATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP 910.962.2206 uncw.edu/cie The UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) offers programs, services, and activities to promote and support entrepreneurship and the creation of innovative new ventures in Southeastern North Carolina. OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 50-100 ONSITE PARKING: YES

OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 350 (AUDITORIUM); 300 (DINING ROOM)

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 (THROUGH CAMPUS PROVIDER) CAPACITY: 600 (AUDITORIUM); 320 (BANQUET) ONSITE PARKING: YES

CAPT’N BILL’S 910.762.0111 SeeYouAtBills.com Ideal venue for everything from corporate events to private parties. Event spaces range from covered outdoor spaces to Bill’s Brewing Co. Taproom with air conditioning, audio visual and bar service. IN-HOUSE CATERING CAPACITY: 100 IN THE TAPROOM ONSITE PARKING: YES

Cameron Art Museum. Photo courtesy of Cameron Art Museum

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EVE NTS AT CAPT’N B I LL’S Whether you’re planning your next corporate event or private party, or you’re looking for a great night out, Capt’n Bill’s has you covered. Known for being the East Coast’s premier sand volleyball facility, Capt’n Bills also provides a variety of spaces for any event. Whether you’re planning a corporate team building or a private party, we have the perfect venue for your next memorable occasion! For a more casual atmosphere, we offer multiple covered outdoor spaces that can include a full service bar, one of our 10-lit sand volleyball courts, and even cornhole. If you’re looking for a more sophisticated venue, Bill’s Brewing Co.Taproom can host 100 people, is fully air conditioned, with audio visual and a full service bar. Bill’s Catering is on-site to offer a wide range of catered meals that include Musser’s famous fried chicken, house-smoked pulled pork, southern shrimp and grits, and much more. Already have the location, but still need the food? Bill’s Catering and Food Truck is fully licensed to serve on and off premise. With over 30 years of catering experience, we can handle any size group and bring our delicious food to you and your guests. Give us a call today at 910-762-0173 to book your next event and check us out online at www.SeeYouAtBills.com.

4240 Market St. Wilmington, NC 28403 910-762-0111 SeeYouAtBills.com


BRUNSWICK CO. BALD HEAD ISLAND CLUB

MAGNOLIA GREENS GOLF PLANTATION

910.457.7300 bhiclub.net 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

CAPE FEAR VINEYARD

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

IN-HOUSE CATERING CAPACITY: 15-250

MARKER 614 BANQUET HALL

910.448.1002 Event venue near the Southport Marina with 3,750 square feet of indoor ballroom space, as well as outdoor space and meeting rooms, a full kitchen and waterfront views.

ODELL WILLIAMSON AUDITORIUM

910.477.9830 Hilton.com 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

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. Where

beginnings

begin!

195 Vineyard Drive Elizabethtown, NC www.capefearwinery.com 74

IN-HOUSE CATERING CAPACITY: 75

OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 250

HAMPTON INN & SUITES BY HILTON SOUTHPORT

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

910.645.4291 capefearwinery.com Their beautiful indoor and outdoor venues feature everything you need for a successful event. Team building activities, presentations, banquets, and holiday parties are more than welcome.

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.

2021 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE

OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 130

THE WINDS RESORT BEACH CLUB

800.334.3581 thewinds.com Accommodations in Ocean Isle Beach that range from single guest rooms to six-bedroom cottages. Includes space for destination weddings and corporate retreats and meetings. OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 150

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PENDER CO. 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

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

HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TOPSAIL ISLAND

910.803.0521 topsailhistoricalsociety.org 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

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

TOPSAIL MANOR

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.

800.TOPSAIL topsailmanor.com Eight bedroom, 8,000-square-foot oceanfront manor built in 2017 available for multi-family vacations, as well as weddings, reunions and corporate events. OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 100 (EVENT-ONLY)

OUTSIDE CATERING CAPACITY: 150

OCEAN’S EDGE RESTAURANT & EVENT CENTER

910.328.0582 oceansedgenc.com 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

The Downtown Venue You’ve Been Looking For

3000 Sq Ft Event Space · Meeting & Conference Rooms · Private Events Venue Packages · Just Steps from the Riverfront

www.genesisblockilm.com info@genesisblockilm.com

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Honored to be named one of The WilmingtonBiz 100

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DIRECTORY

SERVICES

CATERERS ANGIE’S OF CHRIS’S RESTAURANT Wilmington, NC 910.343.9902 angiescatering.net ART CATERING Shallotte, NC 910.755.6642 artcateringevents.com BEAUCHAINES 211 Surf City, NC 910.328.1888

COASTAL CATERING AND EVENTS Southport, NC 910.845.2516 coastalcateringandevents.com

OCEAN RIDGE CATERING Ocean Isle Beach, NC 910.287.1713 oceanridgecatering.com

BRUNSWICK TOWN FLORIST Southport, NC 910.457.1144 brunswicktownflorist.net

COASTLINE CATERING Shallotte, NC 910.754.8680 coastlinecateringnc.com

PINE VALLEY MARKET Wilmington, NC 910.350.3663 pinevalleymarket.com

CALABASH FLORIST & COMPANY INC. Calabash, NC 910.859.0223 calabashflorist.webs.com

DIAMOND CATERING Wilmington, NC 910.399.3811 diamondcateringservices.com

SAWMILL CATERING COMPANY Wilmington, NC 910.620.7001 sawmillcatering.com

CREATIVE DESIGNS BY JIM Burgaw, NC 910.686.9000 creativedesignsbyjim.com

GOURMET TO GO & CATERED AFFAIRS LLC Southport, NC 910.505.9336 gourmettogosouthport.com

SURF CITY BARBECUE AND CATERING Surf City, NC 910.328.4227 surfcitybbq.com

DESIGN PERFECTION Wilmington, NC 910.512.4145 designperfectionnc.com

LITTLE POND CATERERS Wilmington, NC 910.960.7663 littlepondcaterers.com

SWEET BAY CATERING Bald Head Island, NC 910.457.7450 maritimemarketbhi.com/ Catering.aspx

MIDDLE OF THE ISLAND CATERING Wilmington, NC 910.256.4273 middleoftheisland.com MILNER’S CAFÉ & CATERING Wilmington, NC 910.350.8899 milnerscafeandcatering.com

CAPT’N BILL’S BACKYARD GRILL Wilmington, NC 910.762.0111 captnbills.com/catering

CASEY’S BUFFET Wilmington, NC 910.798.2913 caseysbuffet.com

NOTHING BUNDT CAKES Wilmington, NC 910.679.8797 nothingbundtcakes.com

A THYME SAVOR CATERING AND MARKET Wilmington, NC 910.262.2962 athymesavor.com TROPICAL SMOOTHIE CAFÉ Wilmington (2) & Leland, NC 910.769.3939 Midtown 910.821.8677 Porters Neck 910.765.1144 tropicalsmoothiecafe.com

FLORISTS BLOOMERS FLORAL DESIGNS Ocean Isle Beach, NC 910.575.4000 bloomersnc.com

We offer great low rates and audio/visual equipment to facilitate hybrid meetings. Our central location makes the CIE the perfect choice for your next meeting or workshop!

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

SHALLOTTE FLORIST Shallotte, NC 910.754.4848 shallotteflorist.com SWEET NECTAR’S FLORIST Leland, NC 910.371.2224 sweetnectarsflorist.com

FOR EVENT SPACES & MORE INFORMATION

WWW.UNCW.EDU/CIE | (910) 962-2206 2021 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE

EDDIE’S FLORAL GALLERY Wilmington, NC 910.791.0990 eddiesfloralgallery.com

KIM FISHER DESIGNS Wilmington, NC 910.279.5530 kimfisherdesigns.com

Flexible Meeting and Event Space

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ECO CHIC BLOSSOMS Wilmington, NC 910.617.3864 ecochicblossoms.com

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SURF CITY FLORIST Surf City, NC 910.328.3238 surfcityflorist.com

PRESTIGE LIMOUSINE Wilmington, NC 910.799.4484 prestigelimousineservice.com

BEHIND THE SOUND Wilmington, NC 443.854.2741 behindthesoundav.com

WILD BY NATURE Southport, NC 910.363.5032 wildbynaturellc.com

VIP LIMO OF WILMINGTON Wilmington, NC 910.264.4343 or 910.619.5890 viplimowilmington.com

CAROLINA STRAND Wilmington, NC 800.772.0349 carolinastrand.com

WINE & ROSES FLORIST Southport, NC 910.457.4428 wine-roses-florist.business.site

AUDIO-VISUAL

EZAV Wilmington, NC 910.762.4144 ezav.biz

VERZAAL’S FLORIST & EVENTS Wilmington, NC 910.791.1756 verzaalsflorist.com

TRANSPORTATION AZALEA 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

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 AVALIVE Wilmington, NC 910.790.0324 avalive.com/nc/Wilmington/avrentals-services

PAST PRESENT FUTURE DIGITAL INC. Wilmington, NC 910.399.1820 ppfdigital.com SOUND WAVE AUDIO Wilmington, NC 910.794.2858 soundwaveaudio.com

OTHER NORTH CAROLINA’S BRUNSWICK ISLANDS Shallotte, NC 910.755.5517 ncbrunswick.com

FILMWERKS INTERNATIONAL INC. Rocky Point, NC 910.675.1145 filmwerksintl.com

PENDER COUNTY TOURISM Burgaw, NC 910.259.1278 visitpender.com

J & S AUDIO VISUAL Wilmington, NC 910.202.3160 jsav.com

WILMINGTON BEACHES CONVENTION VISITOR’S BUREAU Wilmington, NC 910.341.4030 wilmingtonandbeaches.com

K2 PRODUCTIONS Wilmington, NC 919.341.5111 k2proevents.com

CAROLINA CLASSIC CAR RENTALS Wilmington, NC 919.366.5222 carolinaclassiccarrentals.com COASTAL EVENT SHUTTLE Wilmington, NC 910.338.7706 coastaleventshuttle.com DANIELS TOURS LLC Wilmington, NC 910.763.6070 danielscompany.com EASY WAY LIMO & TRANSPORTATION SERVICE Sunset Beach, NC 910.579.9926 easywaytransportsvc.com LETT’S LIMOUSINE SERVICE Wilmington, NC 910.343.4161 lettslimo.com

Wilmington’s Newest Downtown Hotel on the Riverwalk F e at u r i n g

125 loft inspired guestrooms Over 10,000 of banquet and meeting space Pet friendly with an ARF park

Family friendly featuring Camp Aloft Frontyard outdoor patio with firepit WXYZ Lobby Bar with live music weekly

501 Nutt St. / Wilmington / www.AloftWilmingtonNC.com / (910) 377-7600 2021 EVENT PLANNING GUIDE

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RESTAURANT R O U ND U P

RESTAURANT ROUNDUP

S U S TA I N A B L E

SEABIRD DEAN NEFF PUTS A PA S S I O N F O R SEAFOOD UP FRONT BY KYLE HANLIN PHOTO BY MALLORY CASH

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RESTAURANT ROUNDUP

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ook left. Look right. Shuttered doors of former favorite eateries litter the landscape like disposable masks across a drugstore parking lot. Surely, no one would open a restaurant during a pandemic, right? Dean Neff didn’t get that memo. “There were a lot of things to consider, but moving forward with the restaurant – we never deviated from that idea,” Neff said. “We knew that it was going to happen.” A James Beard-nominated chef, Neff arrived in Wilmington in 2015 and, along with partners, opened PinPoint Restaurant, one of downtown Wilmington’s better-known, higherend establishments. In 2019, he sold his shares of PinPoint and began setting his sights on his next venture. That venture became Seabird, one of downtown Wilmington’s newest, most visible and, so far, busiest restaurants. Located one block from the Riverwalk at 1 S. Front St., at the intersection with Market Street, Seabird boasts one of the most central addresses in town. “I’ve always been drawn to downtown and historic buildings,” Neff said. “I’ve admired the building from afar for a long time and reached out to the owner (developer James A. Goodnight). We immediately hit it off. He was excited about having a restaurant in the building for the sake of having a lot of people coming through and being able to enjoy the space.”

F O L LO W I N G H I S N O S E

The olfactory system delivers its inputs to parts of the brain responsible for smell identification, memory and emotion. And anyone who has strolled along Wilmington’s Riverwalk or visited the region’s beach towns knows the distinct smells of one of the East Coast’s most-regarded seafood havens. “I grew up on the coast,” Neff said. “As a young child, I was really obsessed with the ocean. Then I

moved inland, and I worked in Atlanta and Athens, and then we moved to Asheville, so I was away from the water for a really significant portion of my career. “The first thing that struck me about Wilmington was how much it reminded me of Savannah. There were these nostalgic smells and the humidity and being back near the ocean reminded me of my time growing up in Savannah.” But much more than a nostalgic sort of homecoming went into Neff ’s ultimate concept for what became Seabird. “People always ask, ‘Where do we go to get local seafood?’” Neff said. “And there are places that serve great local seafood, but there was an opportunity to do a seasonal, seafoodcentric restaurant that focuses on local first; that highlights how the availability and abundance of all of these fish change, just like produce. “It just became really clear that that was what this restaurant needed to be.”

A S W E E T FA M I LY

Neff consistently uses the word “we” when discussing the process of opening and running Seabird. Sometimes it is in reference to his landlord, Goodnight, whose efforts restored the building to its 1920s charm. Sometimes “we” means his team in the kitchen or front-of-house. Most often, it refers to his wife – renowned pastry chef Lydia Clopton. But Seabird guests should not assume that Clopton’s creations await them after their final bites of the main course. “People think that Lydia is doing all of the desserts, but it’s actually Jim Diecchio,” Neff said. “We’re using some of Lydia’s recipes like the coffee cake and the biscuits and things like that in the morning, but she has some other, more macro things that she’s doing in the restaurant day-to-day.” The former executive chef at Vivian Howard’s Benny’s Big Time, Diecchio reached out as Neff neared

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Seabird’s opening. “Jim said, ‘I’ve got some things I want to do down the road, but I’d love to come on board and help you out.’ So, I was really excited to have somebody with skills like that to join the team,” Neff said. Diecchio’s addition rounded out the team Neff knows he is fortunate to have compiled, especially given the pandemic-era challenges that have left so many restaurants understaffed. “I can’t say enough good things about how well this restaurant opened,” Neff said. “It’s not one person that does that. It is a group of people that all care about what they’re doing. Everyone is just taking a lot of pride in what they do. It’s been really cool to see that part of everything come together. “We tend to take people that want to stay in a place for a while, whether that’s a year or 10 years, and then we try to pay the best that we can to get people to feel like they are appreciated; to show them that we are partners with them and not trying to work people into a place that’s unsustainable for them.” Sustainably farmed seafood and ingredients are at the heart of Neff ’s kitchen creations and creating a sustainable environment for himself, his family and his team are part of his vision for making Seabird a staple on the Wilmington culinary scene. And he knows it starts with him. “I’m really stepping into all areas,” Neff said. “It would be negligent for me to be working the 16-hour days, mincing onions in the back all day. It’s a process of stepping into the next level of my career and being able to create teams of people that can really work well together and bring together great people that have the same passions and that are all about making great food and providing great service. People who care.” For more restaurant news, sign up for the Business Journal's weekly Restaurant Roundup email by going to WilmingtonBiz.com. FA L L 2021

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THE TAKEAWAY

RETRO RESET

Retroscape, a vintage video game lounge at 1123 Princess St. in Wilmington, is riding the nostalgia trend popping up in stores and new arcade bars such as Game Over and Lvl One Lounge. Retroscape – more living room hangout than bar – opened in March to give patrons a place to plug in and play. “We have video games from the ’70s thru the 2000s, hundreds of classic video game titles to choose from,” said Dylan Pierce, who coowns it with his wife, Ann Marie. “Since the start of the pandemic, many people started picking up new hobbies; this includes retro video gaming/collecting. The demand and price for video games has increased since then. Each generation has their desired console.”

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PHOTO BY TERAH WILSON


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SAMM Properties announces two new developments

COMING SOON!

The Shoppes & Offices at Waterford – LELAND, NC –

STEVE ANDERSON

Developer, SAMM Properties 910.616.0483 steve@sammproperties.com PARKER ANDERSON

Developer, SAMM Properties 910.200.6614 parker@sammproperties.com

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT OUR FUTURE PROJECTS, VISIT SAMMPROPERTIES.COM

– MORRISVILLE, NC –

Profile for WilmBiz

WilmingtonBiz Magazine - September 2021 issue  

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