It's not our money, it's the taxpayers.
That's what Wilmington City Councilman Kevin O'Grady said Monday morning when officials from UNCW's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship came to council asking for money.
The CIE hopes to be self-sufficient in the next few years. But right now, they say they need outside funding to stay afloat.
The City of Wilmington has already given the CIE $70,000 a year for the last 3 years to help them get up and running as an incubator for new business start ups in Wilmington. O'Grady thought the financial partnership was supposed to be over by now, but on Monday, UNCW made a pitch for continued funding from the city.
"We don't have anything specific for CIE. We just have this request to continue the funding. I'm asking the questions I think anyone would be asked if they were asked to make an investment. What have you done with the money so far?" O’Grady said about trying to decide whether the center is worthy of the city’s continued investment.
In a general presentation today, CIE officials mentioned success stories like Lapetus Solutions, a start up at the CIE that has 14 employees making an average of $50,000 a year. They also mentioned Mimijumi, a baby bottle company that had over a million dollars in sales last year.
"The original mission of the CIE is still intact. We're still there to grow new businesses, new start-ups, that are high-growth, high-wage that continue to contribute to the tax base here in North Carolina,” explained Dr. Ronald Vetter, a dean of the Graduate School at UNCW, who often serves as a spokesperson for the CIE.
Still, some on council are unconvinced at this point that continued funding by Wilmington taxpayers is worth it. O'Grady wants to see more details and financial statements before he commits more tax money.
"My concern is the same with every non-profit we support. We expect them to give us goals. Those goals should support city's objectives, and after they've been funded they're reviewed to see if they've performed," O’Grady said.
CIE officials plan to go back before council in the coming months with the specific financial data requested. Funding is already allotted in the city budget, but won't be dispersed unless council feels they have adequate answers to their questions.
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