WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The 2018 Wilmington Regional Economic Scorecard made its way to the Wilmington Convention Center minutes before the Chamber of Commerce’s presentation Wednesday.
Since 2015, this scorecard uses the same yearly metrics to see where Wilmington ranks in key areas compared to cities around the country with similar population and demographics, cities like Asheville, Myrtle Beach, S.C., Savannah, Ga., and Pensacola, Fla.
It also compares itself to bigger cities like Charleston, S.C., and Raleigh.
Key takeaways in the scorecard include:
- Employment: tech positions have increased while other peer cities decreased.
- Pay growth remains a concern with the area ranking last among peer cities.
- Traded sector: employment share of traded sector industries, which bring income, is little changed, remaining low compared to U.S. and peer cities.
- Crime rates are consistent with the region’s strong quality of place.
- Business service employment has slipped, suggesting an opportunity for improvements in the entrepreneurial infrastructure.
“We’re going to think about attracting talent," said Dr. Adam Jones, a regional economist with UNCW. “This becomes about getting the right people in the right seats. We need to retain talent in this region. Remember, there’s more to work than just pay.”
Healthcare job openings represent about 20 percent of area job opportunities. Finding talent has obstacles because of the tighter labor market.
“We have a lot of small business entrepreneurs and that’s great," Jones said. “But we need to focus on how to attract more of those medium to larger sized companies.”
When it comes to innovation, the region is trending down. In fact, there’s been an eight-point loss since 2010.
This year has seen the launch of the New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Innovation Center to focus on new tech as it relates to future healthcare. The center has been in collaboration with other health innovation centers in Europe, the Caribbean and South America.
That’s just one of several local examples of programs in place to train and recruit through innovation.
One key takeaway is no secret to the thousands of people who call southeastern North Carolina home. The quality of place index is strong, seeing continued growth since 2010.
Multi-million dollar investments in recreation in Wilmington along with a booming inventory of hotel rooms and a $1.3 billion commitment in infrastructure improvements speak of a future that can help reinforce demand.
“We’ve focused on talent this year,” says Natalie English, CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. “What does it take to train, lure and retain people to see continued growth?”
There is no denying next year’s data will be impacted by Hurricane Florence. All of the data collected for the 2018 scorecard was pre-Florence. The potential effects of that storm could be reflected in future data through 2020.
For a complete breakdown of this year’s scorecard, click here.