UNCW Chancellor Sartarelli, CFCC President Lee Share Economic Development Ideas with Regional Business Leaders

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Leaders of UNC Wilmington and Cape Fear Community College want to play a more active role in the Port City’s economic development and continue to grow entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.

UNCW Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli and Cape Fear Community College President Amanda Lee shared their views about the future of higher education and economic development during a one-hour panel discussion at the Greater Wilmington Business Journal Power Breakfast Series Sept. 15, held at the Wilmington Convention Center. Approximately 570 people attended the quarterly gathering of Cape Fear business leaders, the second highest-attended breakfast since the local publication launched the event.

Sartarelli and Lee spoke on various topics including state funding, facilities and new programs, but the bulk of the discussion centered on economic development and business engagement. UNCW and CFCC should be magnets for economic development in the Cape Fear region, said Sartarelli, who took over the helm of UNCW on July 1.

“New companies will be looking for places where there will be well-trained personnel. We are very much in the business of developing human resources, creating talented men and women to enter the workforce,” he said.

Sartarelli touted UNCW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which works with emerging startup businesses in southeastern North Carolina. It also houses the university’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC), technology transfer operations and the Seahawk Innovation Fund. In addition, UNCW faculty and students can use the CIE as an accelerator space for both academic and entrepreneurial pursuits.

Sartarelli plans to work with UNCW deans and professors in the near future to organize a business plan competition, with local business leaders serving as judges. Winners would receive funding for their start-up.

“I’m very excited about how we can accelerate economic development on those two fronts – human capital and technology,” he said.

Cape Fear Community College wants to maintain its significant role in economic development in the region, said President Amanda Lee.

“We, historically, have always been a part of the economic development opportunities in Wilmington. All of our new programs are here because there was a specific need in our community,” she said. “We are committed to ensuring that everything we are doing supports communities in Pender and New Hanover counties.”

One audience member asked how the business community can work with educational institutions to keep talented individuals in the area. Sartarelli suggested a one-stop shopping location that allows individuals to access to all the necessary paperwork in one place. 

“We want to become business-sensitive,” he said. “Let’s make it easier for people to start a business.”

In the past 40 years, the number of new businesses in the country has dropped 40 percent, especially in the 25-to-30-year-old age group, Sartarelli added. 

“That does not bode well,” Sartarelli said. “Why? Because 70 to 80 percent of the new jobs in this country are created by small businesses. So, I think we need rejuvenation, a renaissance of new business in this country. Why not start in Wilmington?”