LELAND — For those who aren’t particularly interested in golf, the importance of the Wells Fargo Championship, held in Wilmington last year, was an opportunity for regional economic development.
The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce developed a plan to use the golf tournament as a “springboard” for regional economic growth and prosperity. The development initiative was known as “Choose Cape Fear – Discover Opportunity,” gearing up prior to the May 2017 tournament and continuing through 2018.
In essence, the campaign to capitalize on an influx of 25,000 people, who visited for the tournament, to increase visibility for the region’s resources, ultimately leading to long-term economic investment and development.
According to Leland, Natalie English, executive director of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce declared the campaign a “resounding success” in the months after the tournament. Leland staff would like to know what the ongoing impact of the campaign has been, and town council will address the issue at Monday’s agenda briefing meeting.
Choosing Cape Fear
Leland was one of six entities that donated to the campaign, along with Wilmington, and Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover, and Pender counties. These financial contributions, including $20,000 from Leland, helped fund a professional marketing company and the creation of a “Choose Cape Fear” website — traffic to which has become a major index of the success of the campaign.
According to Leland, economic development staff requested an update on the ongoing Choose Cape Fear Campaign from English.
“[English] believes it has been worth the money that was invested. Almost every visitor to the Campaign website clicks the links to the local economic development websites, including the Town of Leland in some cases, meaning the Campaign website is serving its purpose,” a staff report for Monday’s town council agenda briefing stated.
“She believes that we need to somehow drive more people to the Campaign website. She also stated that they had several great media stories about the Campaign as well as [the] placement of ads in some major publications,” the report notes.
So, what has the impact of the campaign been? Apparently, it may be difficult to say in the immediate future.
“English emphasized that it’s hard to measure economic development marketing because projects might take years to complete. She still stands by the need for the marketing and believes the Choose Cape Fear message is a strong one to market our entire region,” according to the report.
English did inform Leland that the Chamber of Commerce was working on “assets” but progress had been delayed by Hurricane Florence. According to Leland, these assets are reportedly “videos of local CEOs talking about why they chose Cape Fear,” something English told Leland she believes will “resonate with others who might consider it.”
English also told Leland the campaign was working on a “viral component” to help drive more traffic to the website and by extension local websites including Leland’s economic development page.
Leland’s town council did not comment on what the town would consider to be a successful return on investment in the campaign; Mayor Pro Tem Pat Batleman did respond to say Economic Development Director Gary Vidmar could answer those questions, but at press time Vidmar had not responded to emails sent Thursday — this article will be updated with any comment on the issue.
English responded to say she could not discuss the issue productively until next week; stay tuned for a broader look at the Choose Cape Fear campaign’s impact on the Wilmington and surrounding areas.
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