By Kevin Maurer
Anti-incentive state lawmakers may have dented Wilmington’s film industry, but the city is pressing ahead with an innovative festival that gains momentum every year. The Cucalorus festival, once synonymous with film, has branched out to include dance, comedy, music and a tech program called Connect Conference. Lead organizer Dan Brawley expects about 20,000 to attend the Nov. 8-12 event, which launched in 1994 with 16 short films. This year, more than 250 films will be screened, while 35 stage productions and 35 Connect Conference talks and panels are on tap. “In the past three years, with the evolution of Connect our whole brand has transformed,” says Brawley, director of the festival since 1999. About 18,000 people attended last year’s Cucalorus, which is a film-industry term for lighting devices that cast shadows or silhouettes.
“We think Cucalorus is an important part of defining the economic and cultural identity of the city,” he says. “We want to put Wilmington on the map as an exciting, 21st-century destination for filmmaking, performance, creativity and innovation in general.”
Tom Looney, a Wilmington-based entrepreneur who has worked for Microsoft and Oracle, is president of the festival’s tech conference, now in its third year. Featured speakers include Scott Moody, the Raleigh entrepreneur who sold his touch ID business to Apple for $356 million in 2012, and Wilmington’s George Taylor, chairman of beer-software company Untappd and a tech investor for more than 30 years.
“I really believe that Connect 2017 is a model of excellence for regional economic development,” Looney says. “The Cucalorus brand allows us to be bold, creative and inspired to change the world.”
Cucalorus is also benefiting from new hotels and other property improvements in downtown Wilmington. The festival has always supported innovation, which makes Connect a natural extension, Brawley says.
SCOTLAND COUNTY — Edwards Wood Products will invest $30 million over three years and create 46 jobs in a new sawmill. The Marshville-based company makes wood pallets, lumber, wood chips and other products. Jobs will pay an average annual wage of $42,391, about 25% higher than the county average.
WILMINGTON — nCino opened a London office and named Pullen Daniel, co-founder of the banking-technology company, managing director for Europe operations. Daniel is a graduate of Washington and Lee University with an MBA from UNC Chapel Hill. He previously was director of the business advisory group at Live Oak Bank.
Live Oak Bancshares added a mergers and acquisitions unit that will provide financing for projects up to $8 million. Heather Endreson and Lisa Forrest will lead the division. Endreson previously was a managing director at Banc of California, a Santa Ana, Calif.-based lender. Forrest was a business development officer for Banc of California’s national M&A lending unit.
American Airlines will offer seasonal daily nonstop flights to Dallas-Fort Worth Dec. 23-Jan. 7. Wilmington International Airport is the state’s fifth-largest airport and hosts 820,000 passengers annually.