The Cape Fear region was on display to the world when the Wells Fargo Championship took a hiatus from Charlotte and made its way to Eagle Point Golf Club in Porter’s Neck the first week of May. We were privileged to host the event and thankful that Wells Fargo and the Championship staff selected Wilmington as the temporary home of the tournament. The PGA event brought thousands to the area, and beautiful images of the region were beamed into homes in 220 countries. To take advantage of this incredible opportunity, the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce started a regional economic development marketing initiative to spread the message that the region is a great place to do business, and ultimately spur economic development and attract high-quality jobs.
For several months, Chamber leadership and staff worked with strategic communications agency Eckel & Vaughan to create the Choose Cape Fear brand and its accompanying tagline: Discover Opportunity; a 3-minute video highlighting the area’s expansive business resources (which played on shuttle buses ferrying attendees to the Wells Fargo Championship), a website (www.choosecapefear.com); a toolkit for use by area economic development groups; posters that could be displayed by area businesses; a social media advertising campaign and more. During the Championship, Chamber staff and volunteers from area economic development organizations manned a booth at the golf course for 5 days, spreading the word about Choose Cape Fear. I spoke to numerous site selectors and business owners at the event, relating what our region can offer businesses and building relationships. My hand is still numb from writing thank you notes! Overall, Wilmington put its best foot forward to welcome tournament goers, and the Choose Cape Fear messaging was front and center.
Perhaps most importantly, the Choose Cape Fear campaign was responsible for a 3-day visit by Site Selection magazine Senior Editor Gary Daughters, who met with numerous area leaders and business owners in meetings set up by the Chamber and staff from Eckel & Vaughan. We are very excited to report that a feature on the Cape Fear region will be published in the September issue of Site Selection magazine. With a circulation of 45,000 site selectors and C-Suite executives, this feature will be a great step in building interest from new and existing businesses to locate or relocate to our region.
As Choose Cape Fear was developed, the Wilmington Chamber brought together 14 economic development organizations in the 4-county region (New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick and Columbus counties) to seek feedback and support for the campaign. Getting these groups in the same room and working together was a key goal from the onset…one that was stressed as tantamount to successful economic development by authorities during the Chamber’s InterCity Visits the past two years to Charleston, SC and Richmond, VA. Creating buy-in from local governments was also key, and we are thankful that New Hanover County, the City of Wilmington, Columbus Jobs Foundation and the Town of Leland have all shown their support by providing funding, in addition to the Wilmington Chamber’s initial investment of $100,000 for the campaign provided by our flagship initiative Cape Fear Future.
Now that the PGA pros have moved on to their next tour date and the Golf Channel’s cameras are pointed at another beautiful course, does that mean Choose Cape Fear has served its purpose and will become a sweet memory like Brian Harman’s 28-foot putt to win the Championship? No, it doesn’t.
While the Wells Fargo Championship provided a great launching pad, the regional economic development marketing campaign was never meant to be a one-and-done event. Staff at Eckel & Vaughan are continuing to make inquiries to dozens of media outlets and magazines in the hopes of generating more business-focused coverage. The social media campaign continues, and those that visited the area will have Choose Cape Fear messages about our readily available skilled workforce, superior educational institutions and superb quality of life targeted to them as they browse online. Groups like Wilmington Business Development and Wilmington Downtown, Inc. can use the video, toolkit and other collateral materials to entice interest at shows or during visits by VIPs. And the www.choosecapefear.com website will continue to be updated and provide links to business resources.
In the coming weeks, we will also hold a debrief with our economic developer partners to garner their feedback and develop additional next steps. Keeping the Choose Cape Fear brand in front of site selectors and other decision makers will lead to a greater possibility of economic investment in the region. It is our hope that the campaign will continue for years, growing from the base we’ve built. We look forward to continuing to work with our partners in the region to attract others who will Choose Cape Fear, so that we can all Discover Opportunity.
President & CEO
Wilmington Chamber of Commerce