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Washington market attracts national businesses

The Washington area’s economy is attracting business owners across the nation.

QSR magazine, a national publication for the restaurant market sector, recently released its seventh-annual The Growth 40. The Greenville-New Bern-Washington area was named in the top 15 of small markets nationwide in potential for limited-service restaurant expansion.

“It didn’t surprise me, and I like that it is regionally based and included us with New Bern and Greenville. There is a lot of potential in this region area and being included in this market is a plus for Washington,” said Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

This area is expected to see a 5.3-percent increase in population growth by 2021, as well as a 13-percent growth in traffic, according to data released by the NPD Group, a consumer research service.

These factors, as well as the age-group mixture in Washington and a “vibrant corporate market,” are what caught the eye of Georgia-based pizza company Your Pie, according to Ken Caldwell, Your Pie’s vice president of development.

“Typically we see white collar workers for lunch who want a good lunch that they can get in and out of quickly, but we also want to be accessible to families and folks who typically come see us for dinner,” Caldwell said. “We target markets across the country that we feel like would be good places for our brand.”

He said identifying these target markets does not necessarily translate to a Your Pie location opening in that particular market, but he thinks it’s good for people to know it is a possibility and know what attracted the company.

“Sometimes people find it interesting that, ‘Hey, this brand is not in the market and really has kind of picked it out as one that we think can be successful,’” Caldwell explained. “As a franchise model, we don’t fund the growth ourselves. We look for a partner in the local community that wants to operate our business in that market.”

Philly Pretzel Factory also cited population demographics as a factor in its interest in the Washington-area market.

“You’ve got a great combination, and it seemingly looks like it’s young families with kids and retirees that are moving down from the north because of the standard of living you’ve created,” Chief Development Officer Tom Monaghan said.

Monaghan said it’s common for the company to view smaller places, such as Washington, as an offshoot of slightly larger markets similar to Greenville. A big reason for that is Philly Pretzel’s partnership with Wal-Mart, as part of an in-store business model, he said.

“We’re looking at Greenville for one of our traditional stores … and we’ve got all these Wal-Mart opportunities in great communities like Washington,” Monaghan said.

Glover said she thinks it’s important to attract both franchises and independent operations to the Washington area.

“They both are vital to the success of a community. Both play an important role in how the area is viewed, not only by residents, but tourists as well,” Glover said. “You want a mixture of businesses … something for everyone.”

She said several parties, including the county, city, Washington Harbor District Alliance and the Washington Tourism Development Authority, work together to attract new businesses to town.

“We market what we have available and the opportunity that is here,” Glover said. “There are a lot of great people working hard to make things happen in our area.”

For more information, visit www.qsrmagazine.com/content/2017-growth-40-small-markets.