Supporting Economic Growth in New Hanover County by Natalie English

Joining a chamber of commerce is not yet possible in 2022 only about networking. While exchanging business cards was once the cornerstone of chamber participation, today more and more of our members are joining to advocate for issues and have a voice. Ensuring we have elected bodies that understand that free enterprise is the backbone of our economy is critical to the continued growth of our economy. Chamber members must raise their voices in elections by voting for pro-business and pro-jobs candidates.

Whether you always see it or not, your Wilmington Chamber team has an acute focus on advocating on behalf of our members on public policy issues that matter to business, job creation and the engines of our economy. Some of the key issues that this Chamber has focused on include the following:

· The ability of our region dress and sustain business growth
· Protection of our unique location quality
· Convene the business community to develop meaningful talent and workforce solutions
· Advocating transportation and infrastructure solutions that keep Southeast North Carolina moving.

As we work to sustain the business growth we are experiencing and build new industries, this year our Chamber passed a resolution in support of offshore wind energy exploration efforts off the coast of Southeast North Carolina. We have also supported legislative measures to reduce carbon emissions, modernize the energy grid and keep energy prices as affordable as possible for residents and businesses.

In partnership with New Hanover County, Wilmington Business Development and Wilmington Downtown Inc., we work with dozens of existing small business owners in our target industries to enable their continued growth. This work involves breaking down barriers to their growth, such as E.g. available real estate, infrastructure and access to talent.

Our Chamber has been a strong advocate for Project Grace and other public-private partnerships that help revitalize downtown and other areas of our community for business and residents. We have also worked closely with elected officials at all levels of government on the issue of beach rehabilitation and coastal resilience that protects our hospitality and tourism industries. It is no coincidence that our beaches continue to attract visitors who make a major contribution to our economy. It requires advocacy with state and federal governments and the Army Corps of Engineers.

As employers in our area face unprecedented wars for talent, the Wilmington Chamber and New Hanover County Schools have teamed up to introduce a new academy for career and leadership development for 7th graders aims to introduce young people to our local employers and the high growth jobs they want to fill at each educational level and the soft skills needed to succeed. We partner with other organizations in our community to meet needs for talent in healthcare, technology, manufacturing and clean energy.

The need to modernize and diversify North Carolina’s transportation finance structure is becoming more critical as our region continues to grow. As a member of the Destination 2030 Coalition, we have worked to transform the state’s transportation finance structure to continue to support healthy economic growth and ensure we meet the needs of our fast-growing state in an increasingly competitive business environment. Ultimately, the state has committed to allocating a percentage of total sales tax revenue for remittance from the state’s General Fund to the Highway Fund and Highway Trust Fund. The Wilmington Chamber also passed a resolution calling for consideration of all possible options to fund a replacement for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, as this is still the top unfunded priority of the Wilmington-area MPO.

The issues we are focusing on today are of great importance and if not addressed will continue to affect our economy and quality of life for decades to come, which is why we need members of the business community to vote in every election. You have a powerful voice at the ballot box, and you can do so by supporting candidates who represent business, candidates who not only say they want to move North Carolina forward, but act to make it happen, while supporting our system protect free enterprise.

In just a few days, voters across North Carolina will have the opportunity to cast their ballot and let our candidates hear your voice. Early voting in New Hanover County begins Thursday, October 20th and ends Saturday, November 5th. To learn more about voting and registration, please visit the New Hanover County Board of Elections website.

It is my hope that voters in our region, when deciding who to support, will carefully consider which of our candidates will promote policies that have a positive impact on businesses and the economy. We need leaders who are focused on building consensus and overcoming legitimate political differences, and those who can create pathways to real, bold solutions to our community’s problems.

Our community’s job creators need growth-oriented leaders who are able and willing to develop policy solutions that are good for our economy and workers in all industries. Candidates who could hamper investment, innovation, job creation and the inclusive economic growth we seek could hamper the momentum of economic growth in our region. Although we are growing rapidly today, long-term economic success is not guaranteed for our community. The Wilmington Chamber continues to emphasize the need for bold vision, robust leadership, decisive action and the foresight to plan ahead to meet the needs of our fast-growing community.

Please take this opportunity to cast your vote and support economic growth in New Hanover County.

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