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WDI’s incoming President/CEO hopes to build on downtown’s live-work-play opportunities as new chapter begins

Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 at 1:36 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - She may have just moved to Wilmington from West Virginia, but Holly Childs is no stranger to the Port City.

Between growing up in Fayetteville with her father at Fort Bragg and her sister living elsewhere in the state, Childs said she’s visited the city many times, but never thought she would call it home.

“I’ve been in the area a good bit, you know, over the years...always admired Wilmington, always thought, you know, what a great place to vacation,” she said, but added: “[I] never really thought about it as a place that I could eventually, that I would eventually, live, but certainly was always attracted to the place.”

Holly Childs has been named the new president and chief executive officer of Wilmington...
Holly Childs has been named the new president and chief executive officer of Wilmington Downtown, Inc.(WDI)

But the timing was right—Wilmington Downtown, Inc. (WDI) began looking for a new president and CEO in the late summer and after a nationwide search, the committee charged with finding one unanimously chose Childs.

“Quite frankly, I’m not exaggerating, it was clear from the beginning that the review committee knew, and I knew, whenever we met Holly, this was who we were going to bring on board,” WDI board chair Dane Scalise said.

Childs will begin her tenure on Jan. 4, and said she is excited to build on the success downtown has seen over the last several years.

“I think, really, WDI is looking to kind of, with the board’s direction, now to take it to the next level as far as really attracting jobs and investment downtown,” she said.

Her background is in public economic development, having worked in that capacity in both Phoenix, Arizona and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

She said one of her goals is to find ways to create more jobs downtown, so residents have the option of living and working in the central business district, not just visiting it for meals or shopping.

“You have not only new people kind of coming in and choosing to live downtown that want that kind of cool downtown vibe and downtown living, but they’ll also have lots of opportunities for different types of work downtown. So that it is a very viable, vibrant, diverse community,” she said.

She added that she thinks that kind of direction will help mitigate future hardships like those experienced by many businesses because of the coronavirus pandemic and hurricanes that have passed through in the last few years.

“WDI has done a great job of trying to help market businesses downtown,” she said, “but really, keeping people downtown for the full day, to be able to work and live downtown, is really the key to making those businesses more sustainable.”

WDI is also exploring expanding its micro-loan program to aid those businesses that have been struggling, she said.

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