Economic progression in North Carolina

Published 7:38 pm Friday, April 18, 2014

BELHAVEN — At the Belhaven Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet on Thursday at the Wilkinson Center, North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker, the guest speaker, spoke on the economic progress being made in North Carolina as well as the important things a community should focus on.

According to Decker, North Carolina leadership is willing to work with plans that encourage economic growth across the state. Decker shared five areas of focus that are critical for communities to ensure economic health.

“We are beginning to see some progress,” said Decker. “North Carolina’s unemployment rate is below the national average for the first time in eight years. In this state, we have created over 70,000 new jobs in the past 12 months. Job creation is beginning to move in a positive direction again so we are rebounding at a faster rate than the national average.”

Decker said that leadership has a special focus on the eastern part of North Carolina because it is an area that is coming back a little more slowly than the rest of the state. She compared the state’s current transition and economic focus to that of the 1940s and 1950s.

“We are in another transitional period of economic life,” Decker said.

One of the five areas of focus that Decker spoke about was health.

“Every North Carolinian deserves to live a healthy life,” Decker said. “When we think about what we need to do to prepare the workforce for the future, the single most significant rising cost for business today is healthcare. If we want to be a desirable place for businesses to come — if they know we have healthy employees — it makes us even more attractive.”

Decker said communities need to take steps to ensure that residents are living healthier lifestyles and healthcare needs to be accessible.

“It’s a very difficult issue, but you do need access to healthcare in your community,” Decker said.

Decker also spoke about the focus of education, which supplies the North Carolina workforce.

“There is no single issue more important to us than educating the workforce that is the future of the state,” Decker said. “We need to be sure that K-12 and in our community colleges and universities that we have the ability to ensure that everyone is able to get an education and to be able to grow and develop. You need to be sure that you have the ability to educate your citizens for new jobs.”

The banquet featured a social hour, an amazing dinner provided by Keyzer Catering, a segment of entertainment by Randy Hignight, founder of the Band of Oz and the Chamber’s presentation of awards. Eliza Bowen went home with Jr. Citizen of the Year award, Jean Earl Waters was honored as Belhaven Citizen of the Year and Les and Brenda Porter of Belhaven Waterway Marina received the Small Business of the Year award.