Local Business Leaders Suggest Targeting Economic Development Towards Higher Paying Jobs

Nov 20, 2015

At a recent roundtable focused on the lack of affordable housing in the Cape Fear region, local representatives suggested ways of lowering the high cost of housing.  But some business leaders proposed a different route: raising incomes to meet housing prices.

Instead of focusing on creating cheaper housing options, the CEO of Castle Branch said Wilmington should aim to increase incomes in the area.  To describe the city’s economic development strategy, Brett Martin used a fishing analogy.  Instead of baiting for specific types of fish, Martin says Wilmington has been netting, or fishing indiscriminately:

“When you hear about our economic development strategies and the companies we’re trying to bring to Wilmington, we often hear, ‘Well, we need all kinds of jobs.’  Yeah, that’s great, but if you need people to be able to afford a house and that amount can’t be more than 30% of income, what you really need are jobs in excess of $35,000.  That’s the math.  That’s it.  It’s no more complicated than that.”

UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli says the region needs to welcome a more diverse range of industry:

“There’s no solution to this issue unless we accelerate economic development.  For some people, ‘Oh, I don’t want—I want to preserve my community.  I do not want a, I don’t want a company to come in.  I do not want new business to come in, I want to just preserve it.’  Then we’re going to preserve poverty.”

Sartarelli suggested creating a one-stop permitting agency, so that businesses could get approved within 30 days, as opposed to several months, delaying development.