Southeastern North Carolina is one of five communities picked to participate in the state's InnovateNC in hopes of expanding Wilmington and Brunswick and Pender counties' economic development.
Representatives from local government, colleges and entrepreneurs presented their ideas to dozens of people at Ironclad Brewery on Monday night.
The two-year initiative plans to focus on the area’s marine and life sciences sectors in hopes of making the region a more attractive place to work in.
"I've lived here for 23 years, but I was that person who came out of college and settled for a restaurant job because I couldn't find employment,” explained Sean Ahlum, director of tekMountain. “And what I'd like to do is to create even more opportunity for the really intelligent and talented people we have coming out of our high schools, our colleges, and our community colleges."
Event organizers said they want to keep college and high school kids in the area.
“We really don't want to continue to lose our talented young professionals to places like New York and D.C. and Raleigh and Atlanta. We want them to stay here," said Ahlum.
He hopes the initiative will change the way people view the region.
"What I want is for people to start thinking about Wilmington in a new way. Wilmington is not just a place to vacation, it's more than tourism,” Ahlum explained.
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