The annual Cucalorus Festival: Film-Stage-Connect takes over Wilmington Nov. 8-12, filling downtown with several thousand people from our region, the nation and the world. Cucalorus Festival leaders forecast another strong revenue haul this year for the area’s tourism sector. Yet tourism merely scratches the surface of the event’s overall economic impact to the region and the state.

Wilmington’s pivot to an innovation-economy identity — fueled by explosive growth in our traded innovation sectors, companies and clusters — has emerged as its most important job creation engine. So naturally, Cucalorus wants to talk about it.

The city’s bottoms-up acceleration to innovation-led economic development has in many ways mirrored the rebranding and growth of Cucalorus, led by the visionary Dan Brawley. The festival now celebrates and delivers three distinct experiences: Film, Stage and Connect. With inspired content spanning multiple disciplines, the Cucalorus Festival stands at the intersection of creativity and innovation; of the arts and the innovation economy.

Cucalorus Film will feature 300 of the world’s best new films, solidifying its rank among the best indie film experiences. Cucalorus Stage features live performances — from a symphony orchestra to rock bands to theater and much more — at historic Thalian Hall, the state-of-the-art Wilson Center and other more intimate venues.

Keeping with the historic yet thoroughly modern, Corning and General Electric share kick-off duties for the two-day Cucalorus Connect conference (Nov. 9-10 at CFCC’s Union Station), serving as iconic examples of the constant innovation and unwavering adaptive leadership required to remain economically competitive and relevant for years.

“Industry 4.0” and the “Industrial Internet of Things” have made manufacturing almost unrecognizable from even 10-20 years ago. In today’s connected digital economy, the rate of change has never been faster, forcing economic development to be every bit as agile.

Innovation-led, advanced traded-sector services jobs (where the product or service is sold outside the region) in the digital enterprise industries, along with advanced manufacturing jobs within the digital industrial sector, are now the driving force of regional economic growth and prosperity.

For every new “traded” innovation job created in a region, upward of five additional jobs are created. The additional jobs most often are not tech jobs, but span across a wide-spectrum of services jobs within the local (non-traded) economy — lawyers, doctors, builders, real estate professionals, med techs and nurses, as well as jobs in construction, education, and public safety.

(Please, let’s end the denigration of “service jobs” once and for all!)

Our goal is to get the entire Wilmington region connected with the Cucalorus Festival: Film-Stage-Connect! So come enjoy an indie film and hear our luncheon keynoters at Connect. Parties galore are intermixed with live performances and even more Connect presentations: (Tom Morris on Steve Jobs; George Taylor on gangs and entrepreneurship; etc.)

Visit to explore our full festival schedules and purchase your Connect passes and film and stage tickets today.

Wilmington’s Tom Looney, a longtime software and technology executive, is president of the Cucalorus Connect Executive Board. Read this article on Star News Online HERE.