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Message from the President – March 2023 Recap

March seemed to fly by this year! We held a very successful First Quarter Membership Meeting on March 14, focusing on Transportation Infrastructure in the Greater Wilmington Region. Jeff Bourk, Director of the Wilmington International Airport, gave a report on the newly-released five-year Vision Plan approved by the ILM Board on March 1—including updates on the impressive amount of Active Projects on airport property, new Tenants to the Airport, and areas for future development and growth. Improvements to the East side of the Airport will allow for new hangar developments and long-range expanded aeronautical growth. ILM traffic was up 2% in 2022, a year where other airports were down due to reduced travel, and continues to grow, adding new non-stop routes to Baltimore, Orlando, New Haven, Ft. Lauderdale, Minneapolis, and Boston. Many of these new flights will utilize larger aircraft to account for anticipated exponential growth in 2023. The $165 Million Five-Year Capital Plan includes terminal curb front improvements, roadway infrastructure improvements, parking improvements, airline terminal expansion, taxiway relocation, and runway habilitation.   Spruill Thompson, RCASENC Past President and Chair of the ILM Airport Authority pointed out that the Airport is fully self-sustaining and does not receive local tax dollars for Airport Operations or the Capital Improvement Plan.

Aaron Brott, Senior Director of Key Clients & Trade Development for North Carolina Ports, gave an excellent overview of the Port’s Mission, Statistics, Performance Highlights, and Growth Potential.  The Carolina Connector came online two years ago when CSX redesigned its network of precision railroading.  Launched in February 2023, the Rocky Mountain Inland Port, or the Carolina Connector, eliminates the barrier of connectivity into the Midwest from Wilmington to Chicago, St. Louis, and Northwest Ohio.  He also gave a summary of the Container Yard Expansion Master Plan, South Gate Container Complex, and continued expansion of the Refrigerated Container Yard Phases 1, 2 & 3.  With ongoing dynamic shifts in Demand, Supply & Consumer Patterns, Organizational & Strategy Shifts, and Geographic & Model Shifts, North Carolina Ports is in an excellent position to see additional solutions and growth as they navigate the ‘new normal.’  We are the best performing Port in the US, according to the Journal of Commerce, based on gate productivity and ability to turn vessels.  The focus on Economic Development is contributing to some of the transformational projects throughout the state and makes them a vital partner for recruitment to our economic development sites locally.

RCA was well represented at the NC Realtors Legislative Meetings in Raleigh, including the Commercial Happy Hour we organized for our friends and allies across the state at the Transfer Co. Food Hall.  We had a great turnout, especially since it was planned with little notice, little advertising, and no budget.  The response we received was that they were pleased to see someone taking the lead to pull everyone together.  I personally would like more opportunities to meet and network with our commercial counterparts across the state.  Any opportunity RCASENC can create for our members to be the best we can be at what we do is a large part of our primary mission.  If you have an idea for a social or networking event that we should participate in, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or Kelsie Nagele.

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