County considers other development-group options

Published 9:25 pm Thursday, August 30, 2007

By Staff
Might align with neighboring areas
News Editor
Commissioners decided Wednesday night to shop around and see if there’s a “better fit” for Beaufort County than the regional economic-development group it has been a part of for more than a decade.
During a called meeting, they heard from leaders of the Northeastern North Carolina Regional Development Commission, which also refers to itself as North Carolina’s Northeast Commission. The group was created by the General Assembly in 1993 to facilitate economic development and growth in 16 counties in the state’s northeast corner. But Beaufort County commissioners believe that interests here may be better served by an alignment with neighboring Pitt or Craven County.
County commissioners want the economic-development group to put a chunk of money toward helping Beaufort County and its northeast neighbors in constructing “industry ready” buildings. But Northeast Commission leader Vann Rogerson said the group spends about half its budget on marketing.
McRoy said the county’s allotment of the group’s $1.3 million budget ought to be $172,700, and that Beaufort County had not seen appropriate results from that amount of money. Rogerson said there’s no such thing as a pot of money for each spot.
He said the group has several areas of emphasis, or “clusters,” that could be good matches for the region. They include automotive, aviation, marine and life sciences clusters, tapping into opportunities in southeast Virginia and working on Inner Banks development.
He said the group will also focus on tourism and to that end, has spent $35,000 on a regional tourism guide. He said the group will market Beaufort County as a good “day trip destination” for bus companies. The goal is to increase bus traffic here by 5 percent in a two-year period, he said.
Tom Thompson, the county’s chief economic developer, said those economic plans are fine, but don’t work for needs here.
Commissioners directed Spruill to “explore alternatives” to Beaufort County’s current partnership.