Economic development: We really are working on it
TOM RICHTER, Mayor of Washington Park, member of Beaufort County EDC/Committee of 100
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Economic development was the subject of a training session held by the N.C. Rural Center in a recent training session for 20 small North Carolina towns. The Rural Center is one of the strongest allies of the state’s towns and counties; their help to Beaufort County, especially in the areas of sewer and water, has been important. The Committee of 100 and the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission work with the Rural Center staff on many of the industry location and expansion projects that have made more jobs available in the county.
One of the presenters at the daylong session was Will Lamb, a research associate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government. Lamb spoke about the common themes found in five small towns’ economic-development efforts. As residents of communities worked to improve the quantity and quality of the jobs in their towns, the economic development “players” used a combination of strategies/tools from the list below.
As I listened to the presentation, I was struck by how many of these areas of concern are being addressed by the many economic-development players in Beaufort County. The county, the towns, the EDC, the Committee of 100, the county schools, the community college, Downtown Washington on the Waterfront, the chamber of commerce, the Workforce Development Forum, the arts council and the Realtors Association (just a start !) are consciously addressing most of these areas of concern.
We are not where we want to be in terms of the quantity and quality of jobs in our local economy. But we are thinking and planning, and we have made some demonstrable progress over the past five years. A second speaker, Assistant Professor Jonathan Morgan, outlined the goals of economic development as:
Based on these goals, it looks as though Morgan has studied the mission statement of the Beaufort County EDC. We are working on it. To borrow from Robert Frost, we have “miles to go before we sleep.” But throughout Beaufort County we really are working on it!