Gov. Roy Cooper says downtown Wilmington ‘revitalized’ after Florence

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Governor Roy Cooper poses with employees at Port City Java in downtown Wilmington. The business suffered damage during Hurricane Florence. (Photo: Matt Bennett/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Governor Roy Cooper called Wilmington “a great place to be” during a visit to survey Hurricane Florence recovery efforts Tuesday.

Gov. Cooper says at least once a week, he tries to visit a county hit by Florence.

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“We need to send the message across the state and the country that Wilmington is open for business, that it is recovering from this hurricane, and this is a place to take your vacation, and come and shop,” Cooper said.

After making the keynote speech at the Downtown Economic Series Luncheon at the Wilmington Convention Center, Gov. Cooper toured the area to survey hurricane recovery efforts.

“Sometimes when a storm hits, people have this picture in their mind of something that is destroyed, and ‘I don’t want to go there.’ That’s not what’s happened with Wilmington,” Cooper said.

The governor visited downtown businesses damaged by the storm, like Port City Java and Swahili Coast. Swahili Coast owner Caroline Fisher says she thinks downtown business has bounced back over the last six months.

“The recovery effort is coming along, to say the least. We just feel really grateful that we’re still here and we’re still open,” Fisher said.

Cooper then headed to UNCW, where Chancellor Jose Sartarelli gave him a tour of campus.

One stop on the tour was new modular classrooms, which had to be installed after Florence destroyed Dobo Hall.

“That was a very impressive feat, to move all of that equipment from the building that had been destroyed, and put it in these mobile labs,” Cooper said.

While at UNCW, Gov. Cooper discussed other recovery issues. He says a plan is being created to elevate areas of I-40 that flooded during Florence.

The governor says affordable housing was an problem before the hurricane, but Florence put a magnifying glass on the issue.

“We’re pushing efforts as hard as we can to get people back into their homes with the STEP Program. But also working with public private partnerships to get more homes built and more public housing,” Cooper said.

One of those partnerships is with Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity. The STEP Program provides repairs to homes to get them fixed up enough for families to move in.