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Wilmington Expected to Experience Job Growth--Primarily in Low-Income Industries

PNC Bank commissioned economist Mekael Teshome to present survey findings to Wilmington business leaders at a Wednesday morning breakfast at Cape Fear Community College's Union Station.

Business owners in Southeastern North Carolina are more optimistic than they’ve been since pre-recessionary times—and many plan on doing some hiring. This is according to PNC Bank’s annual spring outlook survey. Yesterday, their economist presented survey findings on the financial state of the nation, the state—and of Wilmington. And the Port City is considered an area of major growth—yet in terms of residents’ income, it still lags behind state and national averages.

Wilmington’s real estate values should see major improvement this year, and area job growth is expected to gain two percentage points, thanks to the Port City’s ever-expanding leisure, hospitality and health care industries. Economist Mekael Teshome attributes this boon to the low cost of doing business locally, but cautions against the dangers of growth that’s limited to low-wage industries. In fact, Teshome says generating more income should be policymakers’ key priority—especially considering Wilmington’s fast-growing population.

"When you do have low-wage workers, as the city gets larger, they have to move further and further out from the city. Accessing affordable housing is going to be a major challenge--if income doesn’t keep up. It also means tax revenues will be pressured. We do have to keep up with infrastructure requirements for a large population, but if income is still low, the tax revenues may not be there to provide adequate infrastructure."

To build upon higher-paying industries, Teshome says Wilmington would be wise to rely more on its ports, as maritime trade is an advantage that’s unique to the Cape Fear region. While attracting high-tech industry would also help, Teshome points out that every metropolitan market across the nation is using strategy.