Retire NC plans move full steam ahead

Published 8:54 pm Thursday, October 27, 2016

People come to Washington to slow down, to raise a family, to carve out their own nook and, most importantly, to make a home for themselves.

Washington and the greater Beaufort County area are now well on the way to becoming a certified retirement community.

About 30 people gathered at the Turnage Theatre on Thursday afternoon to hear the latest about the Retire NC initiative, which seeks to market participating towns as places to retire.

After an initial June meeting of community members to discuss Retire NC, the interest in participating was strong, according to Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

If the application is accepted and certification granted, Washington will have access to statewide marketing materials and more visibility via the internet and promotions. This access comes with a price tag of $10,000 plus subsequent marketing fees.

Glover said a steering committee pulled together after the June meeting, comprised of representatives from the Chamber, Washington Tourism Development Authority, Washington Harbor District Alliance, Vidant Beaufort Hospital and local businesses, and they have already raised almost all of the initial $10,000.

The steering committee has also been divided into subcommittees, focusing on financials, visitor inquiries, help for visiting retirees, marketing and customer relations, according to Glover.

“We’ve been working really hard as a committee,” Glover said. “We have been blessed with an awesome group that’s really good at marketing.”

She said other already-certified communities also speak highly of Retire NC, saying it is an initiative worth the price tag.

“The best part is the retirement community is sustainable,” said Lynn Wingate, WTDA director.

Wingate said research has shown strong retirement committees can boost the tax base, increase jobs and economic development, increase home sales and boost volunteer pools.

At Thursday’s meeting, members of the steering committee also debuted its proposed marketing theme: “Reimagine your bucket list at a place you call home.”

The idea is built around the use of buckets in everyday life, and each “bucket” represents aspects of Washington, from fishing and sailing, to the arts and history. Once the Retire NC initiative is set in motion, visitors will receive Little Washington buckets containing information and promotional items.

“They (researchers) found that there was a huge impact in the rural communities,” Wingate said.

Rebecca Clark, of Little Shoppes, said the next step in the process is to set up two-year sponsorships for the marketing portion of Retire NC. The memberships are divided into $500, $1,000 and $2,000.

“It’s my job to ask you guys to step up to the plate,” Clark said.

Glover said the steering committee has relied on agencies and government entities for the initial $10,000, but it will begin relying on businesses more for the marketing portion. The Retire NC application is due by the end of January.