New Hanover County is well-positioned to serve international markets through its port facilities, but the area doesn’t have sufficient access to national markets.
The higher risk of natural disasters in the Cape Fear region, such as hurricanes, is a business deterrent, but other important quality-of-life elements are abundant.
These are a few of the conclusions in a County-commissioned economic development report entitled Pathways to Prosperity: New Hanover County’s Plan for Jobs and Investment.
It’s the manufacturing sector that pays some of the highest wages in New Hanover County. But that sector is also one of the smallest components of an economy which, when compared with similar communities, offers below-average compensation. That’s according to Jay Garner, an Atlanta-based consultant charged by the county with developing a road map to a vibrant economy.
The low level of public understanding about effective economic development, says Garner, is hampering growth.
"We believe that the Special Use Permit … is an issue that deters investment as the SUP is currently structured. We believe there’s too much uncertainty, too much cost, subjectivity, too many layers in the process which would cause many potential companies and site location consultants to eliminate the county on front end… When you have something like this that we consider onerous, then it is a detraction for investment."
Garner says he understands that elimination of the SUP would be unpopular. In light of that political reality, he recommends substantial modification to the Table of Permitted Uses.
He also recommends that the county engage more with UNCW’s Swain Center for Business, which he characterizes as a solid neutral, third-party source.
And local leaders must advocate for the renewal of film incentives, says Garner, if they expect to see the industry continue in North Carolina.