Susan White, Executive Director, North Carolina Sea Grant. Photo courtesy Roger Winstead.

Susan White, Executive Director, North Carolina Sea Grant. Photo Roger Winstead.

Convening interested parties representing multiple disciplines to address priority coastal issues for the state: That’s all in a day’s work for the North Carolina Sea Grant team. We are considered a trusted broker of information and a team that has cultivated close, long-term relationships with a broad range of stakeholders.

Therefore, we often facilitate discussions among and between partners that bring different perspectives to an issue. Ultimately, Sea Grant helps to promote information exchange and constructive collaboration to meet the needs of our state.

This year we have an opportunity to facilitate such a conversation. Please join us on April 14, when, in collaboration with our University of North Carolina System partners, we will host North Carolina’s Coastal Conference at NC State’s McKimmon Center in Raleigh. An evening reception will follow at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.

While the agenda is a work in progress as of this writing, the day will present a suite of interesting topics, with relevant and timely research needs woven through. The event will open with welcoming comments from NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson. He will be followed by a panel of leaders from industry, government, academia and nonprofit sectors who will provide perspectives on opportunities to connect communities, the coast and the economy.

Diverse sets of speakers will address further collaborative opportunities in energy resources, coastal economic development, healthy coasts and communities, hazard preparation and response, marine industry development, and coastal infrastructure.

An evening reception with welcoming remarks from museum  director Emlyn Koster, among other invited guests, will allow participants to network. Also, we’re hoping to highlight a few tools and technologies from our stakeholders for some “hands-on” learning.

We hope that this conference will be the first in an annual series of discussions focused on engaging dialogues to develop new and existing partnerships. We would like to see leaders continue to work together to identify creative, sustainable solutions to support the growing economic needs of the state while balancing the significant natural resources of our coast that bring such value and enjoyment to us all.

Yes, it’s a lofty goal: stakeholder discussions and a focus on collaborative efforts with a win-win end goal. The alternative is the status quo, which is not sufficient, in my perspective.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, North Carolina’s population grew 18.5 percent between 2000 and 2010. The national growth average over that same time period was 9.7 percent. In addition, the state is projected to add 1 million more residents by 2040. That growth would make North Carolina the eighth most populous state in the country by 2040.

Granted these individuals won’t all be living on the coast. However, your guess is as good as mine as to how many will — and then add on how many families will regularly visit this attractive destination.

I welcome your constructive thoughts on future engagement opportunities. Please share these with me at Now’s the time to decide on the steps we can take together.

This article was published in the Winter 2015 issue of Coastwatch.

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