Category Archives: Biz Journal

North Carolina and Wilmington are positioned well for long term growth

Even though North Carolina currently has one the highest unemployment rates in the country, “North Carolina and Wilmington are positioned well for long term growth,” said Dr. Matthew Martin, Economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, Charlotte Branch, at an event hosted by the Cape Fear Chapter North Carolina World Trade Association on February 18th.   Martin presented economic data to back his assertion that the current recession is more sever than the previous two and even if the recession officially comes to an end this year, recovery will take some time.

“North Carolina entered 2008 better than the US and exited worse,” said Martin, “due in large part to impacts on the state’s still-large manufacturing sector and a late, but sharp, pull back in construction activity.”

House Prices Year To Year

House Prices Year To Year

Wilmington is coming down from 6% GDP growth, the highest in the state, said Martin.  Martin presented data from the Federal Finance Housing Agency, that showed Wilmington’s year to year change in home prices peaked in 2006, at approximately 24%, and have basically fell to zero in Q4 2008.

This compares to a national peak of 11% change in 2006 and national average rate change of -4% in the same period.  Wilmington is not the same as Phoenix or Las Vegas or other markets, said Martin, but there is “still room for house prices to decline in this region in 2009.”  Martin also presented data from Bureau of Labor Statistics that show that Wilmington’s total nonfarm employment grew faster than the national rate since 2002 and has fell at a lower rate than the national average in 2008.  Martin’s data has year to year change in nonfarm employment in Wilmington around -1%  and -2% nationally in 2008.  Martin stated, the Fed is using it’s balance sheet to provide liquidity to various financial markets  with an aim of stabilizing financial markets and promoting growth and that with core inflation at 1%, “the Fed has some room for expansionary monetary policy”.  Martin stated that there is nothing to indicate that the long-term growth prospects of the US economy have been permanently damaged. Additionally he said there is already significant monetary stimulus in place, with significant fiscal stimulus likely in the coming months. As the year progresses, these will begin to have their effect.

“The event exceeded everyone’s expectations and was very well attended, we are looking forward to our next event March 25th where the CEO of GE Hitachi Nuclear Enrichment will be our guest speaker at the The Balcony on Dock,” said Corey Heim, President, Cape Fear Chapter North Carolina World Trade Association.

North Carolina World Trade Association

Cape Fear Chapter
Keynote Speaker-

Tammy Orr
President & CEO of GE- Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment

What:
The North Carolina World Trade Association is pleased to host keynote speaker Tammy Orr, President & CEO, Global Laser Enrichment for GE Hitachi. Tammy will discuss current events and recent progress of GE global nuclear programs.

Who:
Tammy earned a B.A. degree in Chemistry with honors from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.  She began her GE career as an intern with GE Nuclear in 1986.

After graduation, Tammy joined GE as a senior control systems engineer.  In this role, she provided technical support of the fuel manufacturing facility and was a key member of the team that designed, installed and operated a new $80M Dry Conversion Process.  Following roles in manufacturing, Tammy progressed through several commercial leadership roles including account management and sales.  In 2005, she became the General Manager, Quality for GE Nuclear Energy, with responsibility for all aspects of manufacturing, product and service quality for the global $1B nuclear business, which serves customers in North America, Europe and Asia.  In June 2007, Tammy was named President & CEO, Global Laser Enrichment with responsibilities for licensing, commercialization and project execution.

Tammy is an active member of the GE Volunteers.  She lives in Wilmington, NC with her husband Rodney and two children, Watson and Kyna.

When:
Wednesday, March 25th, 12:00 PM -2:00 PM

Where:
The Balcony on Dock
Overlooking Historic Downtown Wilmington
33 S. Front Street
Wilmington, NC 28401
(910) 342-0273
Driving Directions Click Here

Lunch:
Choose from the finest selections from a gourmet buffet provided by The Balcony on Dock. Guests will pay for only their own meal costs which is $12 plus tax and gratuity. Tea, coffee and soft drinks will be included.

RSVP:
Reply to CoreyHeim@gmail.com by Monday, March 23rd, 2009, Please RSVP with the full name of those who are attending so a printed name badge can be made up prior to the event.

Company commercilizes fish grown on land

Aqua Plantations LLC, a Wilmington-based underwater agriculture, or “aquaculture” company,  has developed a system for growing saltwater fish in tanks and is seeking investment capital to expand their business.  Aqua Plantations raises black sea bass, a type of Grouper that inhabits east coast waters, in large recirculating tanks and sells processed filets under the brand name “Carolina Black Sea Bass.”  The company currently produces approximately 3000 pounds of processed fish per year from their facility in Wrightsville Beach but hopes to secure investment and expand production to 200,000 pounds per year at an inland site near Wilmington International Airport.

In the wild, black sea bass are normally caught in traps, which leads to inconsistent yields and size,  said Ted Davis, company founder.  In comparison, Aqua Plantation’s fish are raised in 8,000 gallon tanks and fed a diet of pellets when young and then twenty-gram tilapia after they grow past a weight of one pound.  This system allows for uniform growth, and the fish are kept alive until the filets are ordered and processed.    According to Davis, the two biggest challenges are keeping water quality and feeding protocol balanced and designing a recirculating system that can be used inland.  Unlike inland freshwater systems, saltwater systems like Aqua Plantation’s cannot discharge fish waste on land.  For example, tilapia is produced in fresh water tanks, and the waste can be spread on agricultural land as a fertilizer; however, the salinity of the black sea bass’ water prevents this use and requires more advanced systems to deal with the waste.

The company is also exploring more environmentally-friendly methods to deal with the material left over after filleting.  “The best green option would be to turn it into feed for another animal because our byproduct is heavy in omega-3 fatty acids,” said Davis.  The company intends to combine equity and debt financing to develop the site and build a series of tanks and systems to raise the fish and perfect the water recirculating technology.  Davis said they are “looking for $3M for the next expansion.”

Feller US Expands Leland Factory

Feller LLC, a manufacture of power cords for high-tech devices, is expanding its Leland, NC factory.  Feller is a subsidiary of Feller GmbH, an Austrian-based power cord producer with manufacturing in Austria, Hungary, Great Britain and Leland, NC.  Feller produces power cords for electronic equipment that meet a range of international and domestic standards and have application in computer, printing, medical and high voltage usage, such as welding and uninterrupted power supplies.  Customers include HP, IBM, Agilent, GE Medical and Eaton.  According to Gregor Kysely, company president, the Leland factory will be expanding its production line by transferring machinery from the Austrian factory.  “The machinery should leave Austria on December 5th and arrive in the middle of January,” said Kysely.  After the expansion, Feller will be able to produce a complete cord entirely in the U.S; currently, the cord’s plugs come from other Feller facilities and are assembled in the Leland factory.

Continue reading

October 2008 GWB Technology Column

Local Company to Install Cameras on UNCW Campus

Access Control Consultants (ACC) maybe new to Wilmington, but has just been awarded a contract by the University to install 144 video cameras as part of a project to increase security on campus.   The additional cameras are “part of the continuing safety initiatives that UNCW launched a couple of years ago,” said Cindy Lawson, Assistant to the Chancellor for Marketing and Communications.  “When these enhancements are complete more than half of our residence hall will have cameras.”

Continue reading

September 2008 GWB Technology Column

WHQR Moves To Digital Signal

Wilmington’s National Public Radio station, WHQR is putting the final touches on their digital transmitter as part of the plan to begin offering High Definition radio programming in addition to traditional FM.  HD radio allows WHQR to broadcast with CD quality sound and provide additional programming on the two available “side bands.”   John Milligan, WHQR General Manager said that “public radio has take a proactive role in HD radio” and that the station is looking to offer a total of three stations in HD.  The primary station will be a HD broadcast of the regular signal with a second channel broadcasting classical music around the clock and another station with a mix of programming to be determined later.  The classical music channel will feature local hosting for part of the day.  The third channel will “talk directly to particular segments,” said Bob Workman, Programming and Music Director, such as “the younger generation, spanish speakers.” This new format has “so much more flexibility for the listeners,” said Workman.

Continue reading

July 2008 GWB Technology Column

Digital TV

For 92% of the five county Wilmington media market, those who watch television via satellite dish or cable, the upcoming September transition to digital broadcast from traditional analog will not even be noticed.    For the approximately 14,000 people who receive a television signal over the air with an antenna a digital converter box will be required to convert the new digital signal.

On September 8th, the Wilmington media market will be the first market in the US to convert to the new digital format as part of a test by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).   According to Constance H. Knox, WILM Station Manager, Wilmington was the only one of eight markets chosen by the FCC where all stations agreed to meet the early deadline.   The station managers have held regular conference calls and worked through the small challenges that came up while installing the required new equipment, said Knox.   All the equipment should be installed and ready to broadcast by August well in advance of the September switch.  Knox said she expected to share the information gathered from the early roll out with other broadcasters around the country. Continue reading

Local companies embrace social web technology.

For almost every company,  a website is a standard component of their public presence and a part of their marketing mix.  New web-based services like weblogs and YouTube  have experienced record growth for non-business and personal uses, but most businesses have not  adopted these technologies as quickly.   Nevertheless, some Wilmington area companies have begun to experiment with marketing through these social media services and have found them to be a successful way to communicate with potential and existing clients.

In contrast to a traditional website, information posted to weblogs or “blogs” is written in a  less formal tone, organized into categories and sorted by publication date.  A weblog can serve as an effective way for potential clients to learn more about a company or vendor and to become familiar with a business or services provided.  “Social media is an exciting new frontier for the marketing industry,” said Debbie Elliott, President of Talk PR, a local public relations and marketing firm.  “We are constantly exploring new ways to expand our clients’ exposure online, and what better way to sharpen our expertise than to experiment with our own brand?  Since launching the Talk blog, we have recommended the use of blogs to many of our clients as an effective way to communicate with their various audiences.”  Talk PR’s weblog was created in 2005 with Google’s Blogger platform and can be found at talkincblog.com.  In May, Talk PR transitioned the site to WordPress to add more customizable, interactive features such as polls, a roll of staff members’ favorite blogs and websites and social networking bookmarks.

Eddie Yates, a certified life coach and fitness trainer in Wilmington, said that a potential client from Rhode Island came across his weblog at usinmotion.com and informed him that she “all ready felt like she knew him” from reading the postings.  Yates reports that he  “posts to his weblog when something really strikes [him], but may go a week or so without something worth mentioning.”  Yates believes that the weblog is an important part of his site because it allows readers to understand his business and philosophy, and because it changes regularly, it keeps people coming back to his website.

In the Wilmington, weblogs written by Realtors account for a high percentage of the business weblogs.   A Google search for “Wilmington, NC Blog” returns a majority real estate-related weblogs.  Most of the topics discussed on Wilmington real estate blogs include the current market conditions, new developments and sales techniques.  “I have gotten a few leads from my blog and I am currently working with a customer that read my blog [post] about Short Sales” said  Exit Realty’s Michelle Roberts.  Roberts also can be contacted via SMS message from her website and uses the microblogging platform Twitter.   Twitter allows users to post 140-character messages, called “Tweets,” from a website, mobile device or via instant messaging to a central website.  These updates then can be then included in weblogs or subscribed to by other users called “followers.”  Twitter’s popularity is expanding rapidly and the site is currently used by a number of Wilmington graphic designers, realtors and local churches, in addition to a wide range of  personal users.  While Roberts has not seen any leads from Twitter yet, she admits that she is just starting to use it.

Talk PR also uses Twitter to put out updates on projects and connect with customers.  Twitter allows Talk PR to quickly update its “followers” on events or news happenings within the company, providing a window into a day in the life of Talk PR.  Interested visitors to Talk PR’s blog can click on the Twitter feed in the side bar to view the updates.

In addition to weblogs and other text-based social networking site like Twitter, video sharing  sites such as YouTube are becoming a popular way to connect with customers.  Wilmington, New Bern and Smithfield’s KOA  campground each have a YouTube channel with videos produced by the campground staff.  Local marketing firm Signal envisioned the YouTube project at KOA.  “We created YouTube channels for each of the three campgrounds and provided instructions on how to optimize the content and keywords to help with their search engine optimization efforts. The campground managers shoot a new video every month. We then update the web site and include the video in a monthly e-newsletter that we produce,” said Bryan Kristof, Signal’s Director of Marketing.  While these videos have a smaller reach than the majority of viral marketing sensations,  some of KOA’s videos have had over a thousand views as of the time of this article.

Publishing weblogs and other social media is not without its risks.  According to Nathan Snell, a recent UNCW graduate who blogs about social media at www.thesnell.com, authenticity is critical to the successful implementation of a business weblog.  “Inauthenticity is the probably one of the greatest things for a company to avoid when using social media properties (blogs, youtube, social networks, etc) or even when planning to engage with others on said properties. For example, a company who uses a blog strictly to promote products, events, and so forth is missing the purpose of social media,” said Snell.  Just like using “reply all” in an email, quick postings to Twitter or weblogs can lead to embarrassment if they are not thought out completely.  “On Twitter people accidentally send what was supposed to be a direct message as a tweet to everyone all the time,” said Snell.

In related news, Verizon Wireless recently completed a study comparing the monthly use of text messaging by their clients between 2006 and 2008.  The study found that this April, Wilmington-based Verizon customers sent or received  6,334,002 text messages compared to 112,405 in the same period in 2006.  Charlotte earned the number one spot across the state as the ‘textiest city’ with customers accounting for over 103 million text messages in April of 2008 compared to just fifteen million texts sent and received in April of 2006.   “The Big City Wireless Use study offers North Carolinians an interesting snapshot of how they have come to rely on their cell phones every day to do much more than make phone calls,” said Jerry Fountain, Verizon Wireless President for the Carolinas/Tennessee region.  “This study proves text messaging is a phenomenal way to communicate information quickly and efficiently to stay connected with family and friends, wherever they may be.”

June 2008 GWB Technology Column

Trans1 Launches New Spine Product

TranS1 Inc., a publicly-traded Wilmington-based medical device company focuses on minimally invasive surgical approaches to treating degenerative disc disease in the lower lumbar region of the spine.  The company has received 510(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its AxiaLIF 2L, a two level lumbar fusion system, in the United States. The AxiaLIF 2L is designed to treat degenerative disc disease at both the L5-S1 and L4-L5 lumbar discs through a single, one and a half inch incision.

Continue reading

May 2008 GWB Technology Column

North Carolina Biotechnology Center

North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s President and Chief Executive Officer Norris Tolson and Southeastern Office Director Randall Johnson, spoke on how biotechnology drives North Carolina’s economic development at  the Brunswick County Entrepreneurship Conference held on April 10th and 11th in Sunset Beach, N.C.  Some of the topics discussed were expanding the production of natural products, growing algae to produce biodiesel, marine fish farming and practical applications of marine biotechnology.   According to Johnson, entrepreneurship, expanding existing business and recruitment are three equally important components to economic development.

“The key is to start the business here and it will grow. The big question is how to move the ideas from the mind to the marketplace‚” said Johnson.

Continue reading

April 2008 GWB Technology Column

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless’ Wilmington call center is expanding and will hire 150 new full-time customer service professionals as part of its plan to expand its operation and support increased demand for its wireless products and services.  The company plans to hire approximately twenty-five new employees per month through November 2008.  Verizon Wireless currently employees more than 1200 people in the Wilmington area in their customer service, information technology, training and financial services departments; it also has two full-time employees and two interns in the fitness center.

“Our customer service team helps us deliver on our commitment to provide an exceptional experience for our existing customers and the new ones we plan to add this year nationwide,” said Human Resources Manager Rob Clayton. “We have been very pleased with the talent pool in Wilmington.”

Clayton also commented that he started eleven years ago as a customer service representative and has since advanced to his current position in management.

Continue reading