The Blue Economy Ecosystem in the U.S.

Wilmington, due to it’s proximity to the ocean, has a strong Blue Economy.  However,  the region currently has no economic development programs focused on growing its Blue Economy. The UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) has recently started  a blue focused program, still in its formative stage. Cape Fear Ocean Labs grew out of the CIE program with a mission to focus on Blue Tech.

Many other regions around the US have well-developed Blue Economy development initiatives (business incubators, accelerators, makerspaces, and hubs).  At CFOL we are looking to  these leaders  as models for our local efforts in Wilmington.

Much more information on the Blue Economy Ecosystem can be found at The Liquid Grid website.

Our research has led to the following observations regarding successful Blue Economy ecosystems:

  1. They are located in seaside Port cities that already have significant Blue Economy business sectors, primarily in maritime commerce. 
  2. They are near a major university that has  well developed Marine Science and Engineering programs.
  3. They have engaged major U.S. government stakeholders (e.g., NOAA, Navy EPA, USACE, EDA).
  4. They have active innovation and business incubators with strong collaborations with other regional innovation and business incubator organizations.

Depending on the location these factors are not equally well developed but all locations have at least some (most) of these significant characteristics. that are significant.

Wilmington shares many of the above characteristics, making it an ideal location for Blue Economy development initiatives.  Additionally, Wilmington is a rising star for economic performance, ranking 37 in the Milken Institute’s 2021 analysis of the 200 top economic performing cities in the US. Finally, Wilmington offers many amenities that have led to it becoming  a destination for a seaside life-style for tourists and relocating residents as well;  it ranked number one in the Nation for inbound moves in United Van Lines’ 2020 analysis.  

We believe all of these factors lead to Wilmington being an ideal location for establishing Blue Economy development initiatives for the southeastern US. . We are optimistic about the potential for theBlue Economy and BlueTech here in the Cape Fear Region.

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