On Beaufort County Economic Development

Published 6:11 pm Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I have read some columns recently in the Washington Daily News that indicate that economic development is a waste of money. Without economic development, Beaufort County would not have idX impressions, Camfil Pharr, PAS (formally Prettl), XS Smith, Oak Ridge Industries and others.

Many existing industries have benefited from economic development. They include Coeur Medical, Flanders Corp, Spinrite LP, Hackney, Carver Machine, Pronamics (now Flanders), and others. Helping local existing industry develop and thrive is a key to economic development. If a local company fails or leaves, those jobs are lost forever. Other successes include:


The construction of four industrial buildings in Washington-Beaufort County Industrial Park. Industries in those buildings employ area people including residents of Beaufort County.

The Washington-Beaufort County Industrial Park also houses the Beaufort County Skills Center. The Skills Center is the office for Beaufort County Economic Development plus continuing education classes are offered by Beaufort County Community College. BCCC intends to expand the offerings in the coming school year.

The purchase of Chocowinity Industrial Park. The park was initially bought to house two industrial companies with room for others. Due to the 2008 recession, one went bankrupt and the other was unable to expand. To some this may seem like a failure but, along with the Washington-Beaufort County Industrial Park, It provides many tracts for new and expanding industry including larger sites for larger industries such as a wood pallet plant. It also has direct rail access and a natural gas line on the property.

The Business and Innovation Council is a coalition of Beaufort County Schools, Beaufort County Community College, various government agencies, and volunteers that assist in addressing the educational and skill needs of business and industry.


Rural areas, like Beaufort County, have to fight harder to attract business and industry. This requires a lot of effort and cooperation. Many rural areas are dying. In urban areas like Charlotte or Raleigh, economic development is relatively easy. You could almost say it happens by osmosis but both market their area and economic development aggressively. In Charlotte in 2014, there were 63 projects that resulted in more than 6,080 new jobs and $549.9 million in capital investment.

Economic Development in Beaufort County has been successful due to the efforts of Beaufort County Economic Development and Board of Commissioners, the city of Washington, Committee of 100, Chamber of Commerce, various government agencies and many volunteers. People working together!

The education sector also contributes greatly by providing the employees required by new and expanding business-industry.

Beaufort County Community College has trained many people that fill positions needed by local companies. The quality and skills of a work force are key factors in locating business and industry. Beaufort County Community College could be considered Beaufort County’s greatest economic development asset.

Beaufort County Schools has increased their focus on fundamental skills training to better prepare those for careers that are not going to attend college. The graduation rate has improved while the dropout rate has decreased the last few years. Construction of new schools and capital improvements has also been a benefit. Beaufort County Schools and Beaufort County Community College collaborate and work very well together to better address student needs.

Grants and incentives are part of economic development. Politically I don’t like them but that is how it is done. If you don’t participate, the county is put at a competitive disadvantage and is unlikely to attract new business and existing business-industry also suffers. Every once in awhile a new company of 25-plus employees will show up on their own but it is extremely rare. Just about all companies looking for a location know how the game is played.

The 2008 recession severely damaged the local economy. The economy has improved the last two years and the number of people employed in Beaufort County has increased. There is more opportunity to attract new business and industry, and for existing business to expand. Increasing opportunity with more and better paying jobs increases prosperity. It also grows the tax base, which helps to maintain a reasonable tax rate for Beaufort County citizens while fulfilling the needs of the county.

Eliminating economic development in Beaufort County, as some people suggest, is not something I even want to imagine. We have a choice; we can be winners or losers. I believe we need to be a winner. The foundation for economic development in Beaufort County is strong. I believe Beaufort County is going to have a prosperous future.

Al Klemm retired from the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners in 2014.