In a recent article by Southport’s Stateport Pilots’ Staff Writer Lee Hinnant, he highlights the ways in which marinas contribute to the local economy.
More than just places to tie-up and buy fuel and ice, marinas are substantial contributors to the economy and gateways to some of the nest spots on the Cape Feat coast.
With thriving restaurants, an inn, real estate sales and other businesses, Bald Head Island Marina is like a second village square. Everyone who visits the island passes through, wither on private boats or the large passenger ferries.
At South Harbor Village in Oak Island, the marina helps support two large restaurants and several small businesses overlooking the water. Just up the Intracoastal Waterway at St. James, the marina anchors a market, restaurant and Tiki hut. One of the area’s top seafood restaurants and a motel overlook Blue Water Point Marina. At the heart of it all is Southport Marina. During the past decade, Preston Development has turned what was an aging marina into a first class facility that has garnered numerous awards. There are 10 full-time employees and two part-time workers. Businesses based at Southport Marina include a boat brokerage, a boating club, a boat rental company, a sail supplier and an American Sailing Association-certified sailing academy. Seven charter Companies and Zimmerman Marine Service also call the marina home.
There’s a waiting list for the boat dry stack and manager Hank Whitley said that’s no happy accident. “We’ve put a lot of effort, headache and heartache to do it right,” he said. “It’s a big deal for us and a major revenue stream to bring folks from elsewhere.”
The boaters who stayed at Southport Marina less than a month increased by about 150 last year to more than 1,500. Whitley estimates that one-quarter of the marina’s business is with transients. “We think of ourselves at concierges,” Whitley said. “The biggest thing about the impact is that just about every single one of them want to go out and eat somewhere in town.” The visitors who boat to Southport also need provisions, fuel and marine parts and services.
“It’s the same thing as a hotel,” said Cindy Brochure, tourism director for the City of Southport. “If they like you they will come back.” Brochure said the marina’s awards and favorable mention in publications such as Sail Magazine have helped introduce Southport to many newcomers. “We have big-city amenities in a small town. It’s an economic boost when these people come in.” Brochure called the area marinas “a year around economic development tool” and said her office enjoys handing out information about the community. “It’s like having a stop on the interstate highway” she said.
A 2008 study of the southeastern region of NC stated that marinas employed 783 people and had a secondary economic impact of $305-million in sales.