Postscript: Retail that Reaches

The Cape Fear Economic Development Council held a meeting on November 19 about local retailers whose products have grown beyond this region to achieve national success. The Calico Room on Front Street was a great venue for:

  • The informal, varied panel discussion, expertly moderated by writer and local business owner Gwenyfar Rohler

  • A showcase of the panelists’ diverse products

  • Lots of follow-up discussion about this region as a hub for product entrepreneurs.


Our Presenters

Things We Heard


  • Panelists’ enterprises were various in size and in focus, but all were mindful about the entire production cycle: Where products are conceived, manufactured, assembled, and sold. All the panelists manufactured in the US and hired locally for as much of the product development and distribution as possible.

  • The panelists all said the ability to keep production local was valuable to them, their customers and their communities.

  • The panelists had small starts and good ideas, help from locals, modest funding at the beginning and growth that they had managed.

  • It is possible to build a national business starting in Wilmington

  • Opportunities abound:

    • Different sources of funding, such as Kickstarter

    • Partnerships (Kids Making It)

    • Contests and national recognition (Miriam O)

    • Niches and markets that arise suddenly (Topsee Tulip Frosting)

    • Marketing existing innovations (Dry Case) (Topsee Tulip Frosting)

    • Starting on completely new projects (Backslider)

    • Giving back (Half United) (Kids Making It)


CFEDC thanks you, invites you to follow up with any questions you may have, and hopes to see you at upcoming forums. 

BCC Solar Class Produces Qualified Solar Installers


WILMINGTON, NC, August 17, 2012 – Brunswick Community College (BCC), in partnership with Cape Fear Solar Systems, LLC, local leader in solar system design and installation, successfully completed the second semester of Solar Installer classes, closing with a fantastic record of 62.5 percent of students passing the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) PV Entry Level examination.

Since the course was introduced in August 2011, approximately thirty students have registered. Brunswick Community College has so far trained and educated 26 solar professionals, 19 of which have been through the ultimate and rigorous NABCEP testing. The class that finished this month, which was also the first group at BCC to obtain the National Center for Construction Research and Education (NCCER) credentials, had 12 students, 8 of whom signed up to sit for the NABCEP PV Entry Level Exam. 5 students have successfully passed the test resulting in a passing level of 62.5 percent. Students are still waiting for their NABCEP Solar Heating Entry Level Exam results.

Given the difficulty of this exam, the above average passing rate demonstrates the high quality of the program and dedication on the part of BCC to provide superior training. “We are very excited to contribute to our community with a high quality course producing professionals that are in demand. Renewable energy is expanding and we are glad to give our students a solid base to succeed in this increasingly competitive industry,” Marilyn Graham, Green Information and Training Center (GITC) Coordinator at Brunswick Community College, expresses her enthusiasm for the college’s achievement.

“I am pleased to see young professionals taking solar power seriously and obtaining education and training to become qualified within this growing field. The NABCEP Entry Level Exam should be the starting point for every installer having long term professional objectives in the solar industry with the aim of providing quality workmanship,” states the course Instructor and President of Cape Fear Solar Systems, LLC, John Donoghue.

Students in the Solar Installer course not only undergo intensive in-class lecturing with frequent testing, but train their newly acquired skills on a mock up roof at the college’s campus, where they install, re-install and troubleshoot various solar systems. Their entire experience is topped with field trips, where students visit local solar arrays installed by Cape Fear Solar Systems and get exposed to real world installation challenges.

Due to the increased adoption of renewable energy in Southeastern North Carolina, and the subsequent demand for skilled labor, BCC monitored the increased interest in learning skills related to solar installations. After extensive preparation by the GITC, the BCC’s curriculum for the Solar Installer course was approved by NABCEP in August 2011. The college itself became the first NABCEP Entry Level Exam training provider for Solar PV and Solar Heating in Southeastern North Carolina.

Under the leadership of John Donoghue, President of Cape Fear Solar Systems, and triple NABCEP Certified solar expert, students of Brunswick Community College that successfully complete the Solar Installer coursework are eligible to sit for the NABCEP Entry Level Exam. On top of that, BCC is accredited by the NCCER as an educational provider under the Sponsorship of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) of the Carolinas.

Being part of the continuing education program, the Solar Installer course provides students with basic knowledge of construction, electricity, and plumbing, as well as job site safety. After obtaining the fundamentals, students follow two modules, Solar Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal. The solar modules teach students how to install safe and code compliant solar electric and solar thermal systems.

Passing the NABCEP Entry Level Exam testifies to a practitioner’s basic knowledge, comprehension and application of key elements and concepts of solar system operations. The vast majority of serious, professional solar companies require as a minimum for employment a successful passing of the NABCEP Entry Level Exam. For consumers purchasing solar, the NABCEP mark is a clear signal that the solar installer has been tested and found to meet the standards required to perform quality work. The next Solar Installer class starts September 1, 2012. For more info please visit

CFEDC Presents: Wilmington/New Hanover Comprehensive Greenway Plan and City of Wilmington Collector Street Plan

The CFEDC  hosted representatives from the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO) and the City of Wilmington. Our topic: the Wilmington/New Hanover County Comprehensive Greenway Plan and the City of Wilmington Collector Street Plan on June 26 in the WHQR Gallery at 254 N. Front Street, Suite 300.

Amy Beatty, the city’s superintendent for Recreation and Downtown Services and Mike Kozlosky, WMPO executive director, presented information on the plans. Discussion with the audience followed.

“The Greenway Plan is an exciting initiative that has the potential to both improve the transportation options in the region and encourage a healthy population through provision of a safe and attractive greenway network having form and function,” said CFEDC Chair Mark King.

The CFEDC event offered an opportunity for the public to learn more about the plan and provide commentary on the website.

Ian Oeshger, CFEDC vice chair, also said he hoped the event could bring clarity and context to the City of Wilmington Collector Street Plan.

CFEDC Presents: Riverfront Development on the Cape Fear

A standing-room only crowd gathered May 22 at WHQR for the latest CFEDC Presents: Riverfront Development on the Cape Fear. The panel discussion focused on opportunities for leveraging the riverfront for maximum benefit to our unique regional economic mix.

During the evening, the conversation centered on these questions:

  1. What is the community’s vision for both banks of the Cape Fear River as it flows past downtown Wilmington and regional assets such as Eagles Island?
  2. What are possible uses for the land? What is the “highest and best use” for the land?
  3. What types of quasi-governmental structure (if any) may be needed for planning purposes? What are examples of other successful projects, both in NC and elsewhere?
  4. Other: What is planned by the Battleship Commission, Eagles Island Coalition, various private & public landowners and stakeholders? Possible uses already mentioned:
    Baseball stadium, performing arts center, public park, eco-tour facility on Eagles Island, expansion of the battleship “footprint”, marinas, museums, restaurants, etc.

Panelists included:

  • Brent Lane, director for
    the UNC Center for Competitive Economies and economic strategist specializing in the design of development schemes that preserve sensitive natural and cultural heritage sites
  • Steve Coggins, a local attorney well-versed in municipal, state and federal laws concerning coastal development
  • Philip Prete, representative for The Eagles Island Coalition and Senior Environmental Planner for the City of Wilmington
  • Reid Murchison, managing director of investments with Wells Fargo Advisors and former president of the Community Foundation of Southeastern North Carolina, among other notable local non-profits
  • Donna Ray Mitchell, LEED accredited professional and manager for ColeJenest & Stone’s Wilmington office and former local CAMA officer for New Hanover County.

For more information about the event, contact CFEDC board member Tom Conway at or call 910/509-1818.

Coming Up Next … Transportation (June) and New Hanover County Commissioner Candidate Forum (September) Continue Reading →