Q&A: Recruit, help small businesses

Nestled in the southern Appalachians, the town of Brevard is located opposite Wilmington. But Brevard has things in common with the port city: the city is a tourist and cultural hub and a retirement destination.

So when Josh Hallingse traded in the breezes of the Brevard Mountains for a touch of salt air to work at the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, he immediately recognized the major strengths that the two places share and that money cannot. buy: incredible natural settings and a feeling of belonging.

As vice president of small business development and business retention – a new position for the chamber – Hallingse plans to leverage these assets not only to attract new small businesses to Wilmington, but also to help those that are already here to develop.

GWBJ: Tell me about your new position in the chamber.

HALLINGSE: “My role in the chamber is to serve and develop the New Hanover County small business community. This includes service to chamber members, but, just as important, includes service to businesses that are not related to the organization or perhaps not related to one of our economic development partners.

The goal is to be determined on how we develop as a world class city. To that end, we are creating a proactive business retention and expansion effort that aims to reach out to New Hanover County’s network of small businesses and entrepreneurs and listen and respond to their feedback.

GWBJ: What drew you to this job?

HALLINGSE: “Long before COVID-19, I believed in the value of creating places and the growing importance of unique natural assets to the way people experience a place.

These strengths are really hard to measure as part of the site selection process in traditional economic development projects, but I think they are essential parts of how people naturally choose where they want to live and work.

Given that the main national problem for businesses is the development, attraction and retention of talent, I believe that cities that pay close attention to this trend will be the best performers in the long run. “

GWBJ: How does the chamber define a small business?

HALLINGSE: “A private company with less than 25 employees.

GWBJ: How important are small businesses to Wilmington?

HALLINGSE: “This is where most new businesses and jobs are created every day in New Hanover County. While it is impossible to overstate the importance of our large corporate citizens, small businesses account for the bulk of the typical job creation that occurs. They don’t usually get the same attention.

GWBJ: Wilmington has become a hub for entrepreneurs, especially in the tech and life sciences industries. What other areas of small business here are doing well but not necessarily visible to the public?

HALLINGSE: “I’m still getting to know these emerging clusters, but you’re absolutely right; New Hanover County is incredibly fortunate to have world-class business leadership.

Much like businesses with a larger footprint, small businesses in Wilmington also operate in industries that have a proven track record on the broad end of the spectrum. These include logistics / distribution, pharmaceuticals / life sciences, fintech and food / beverage.

Being new to eastern North Carolina, I am also amazed at the impact and leadership that exists in Wilmington when it comes to the defense industry and the marine and engineering sectors.

Coming from a similar market in the western part of the state, I also see the potential and consolidation of outdoor equipment manufacturing and product design as an opportunity. The sectors of fishing, cycling, surfing and other businesses linked to our great outdoor assets seem to be a unique opportunity.

GWBJ: What are the greater Wilmington area’s most valuable assets? What sets us apart from entrepreneurs?

HALLINGSE: “In my mind, the ocean, the river and access to talent are our most powerful assets. In Wilmington, we combine our incredible access to water with an incredible pipeline of talent. … “

GWBJ: What areas need more work?

HALLINGSE: “I would be remiss if I did not mention transportation. In particular, the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge needs to be replaced.

Wilmington is by far the largest city on the North Carolina coast. To continue to be the hub for quality, well-paying jobs, Wilmington must continue to position itself as the transportation hub for the region.

GWBJ: What are your main goals for 2022?

HALLINGSE: “I started to formalize our Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program, which is basically a fancy way of saying that we are now proactively reaching out to small business owners and entrepreneurial businesses instead of waiting. that they contact us when there is a problem.

By nature, I am listening. My goal is to really listen and be a resource.

It could mean helping with a property search, connecting a business with private equity partners, or compiling data to support an expanded business plan. My goal is to be an extension of a business owner’s staff and help solve issues that might hinder job growth and investment.

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