Rankings matter: Classifications in promoting city and county

Published 6:12 pm Friday, March 24, 2017

Recently, Washington was ranked as the No. 8 place to retire in North Carolina by SmartAsset, a finance technology company.

In the March 2017 edition of Site Selection magazine, Washington is listed as tied at 78th among the top micropolitans in the nation for 2016. (See accompanying article for information about micropolitans.)

Washington was ranked No. 5 on Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns in the United States during a contest that ended in 2015.

Area officials believe inclusion in the rankings will benefit Washington and Beaufort County.

Martyn Johnson, the county’s economic-developer wrote in an email: “By being included in Site Selection Magazines top micropolitan areas in the United States the City of Washington is identified with those areas in the United States that are significant and important centers of production and population for their area.

“The designation can be used to promote the City of Washington and Beaufort County to new and expanding businesses through a multi-media approach.

“Site Selection magazine itself is read online and in hardcopy by numerous site selection consultants and companies with expansion or relocation economic development projects.  By being include in the top micropolitan areas the City of Washington and Beaufort County are recognized and may be considered for projects for which they otherwise may not have been considered.”

City Manager Bobby Roberson wrote in an email: “This acknowledgement provides the City of Washington, with additional exposure on a regional, state, and national level as a wholesome community. This attention also recognizes our efforts towards eco-tourism and ‘partnerships’ in fulfilling our city mission statement. In summary, ‘Quality of life for residents and visitors shall be paramount consideration,’ for City Council and our administration in our decision making process.

“Finally, our partners have embarked on a path towards success by promoting Washington as a ‘place to be’ and all of our agencies have accepted the challenge.”

Johnson believes the rankings help him do his job.

“These rankings are a third party validation that Beaufort County is a place for companies to locate and/or expand their businesses,” he wrote in his email. “It also shows the current and future labor force that Beaufort County is a location where they can avail themselves of current and future jobs.

“The rankings provide Beaufort County advocates and supporters of economic development a measure of the impact of their efforts to make the County a great place to work and live.

“Thus the rankings show the City of Washington and Beaufort County in a positive light by which I can market the City and County.”

He also noted, “North Carolina’s ranking of second (tied with Georgia) in the list of states with the most micropolitan areas means that the state has a number of diverse smaller communities that are attracting economic development projects.”

By attracting economic development projects these micropolitan areas are spreading projects across the State of NC.

“As the urban areas become more congested and expensive these micropolitan areas will act as safety valves to relieve congestion and price pressures to maintain manufacturing in North Carolina.”

The SmartAsset study comes several months after the City Council voted 4-1 to participate in the Retire NC certification program. Retire NC is designed to attract retirees to the state. The city is contributing $2,000 to the project. The Washington Tourism Development Authority, Washington Harbor District Alliance, Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce and Beaufort County have each contributed $2,000 to the project.

“A lot of these rankings make sense for our area and hopefully help to promote our community even more. We do believe we are a great place to retire which is why we have been pursuing Retire NC and promoting our area to retirees,” wrote Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce. “We continue to be a great place to start a business and operate a business and we are proud of our local businesses and all they do. I also believe we are amongst the top when it comes to Coolest Small Towns and that ranking was right on track. When you look at all we have to offer and the great people here how could we not be amongst the coolest? All the rankings just prove what we believe which is we are a great place to live, work and one of the coolest small towns in the Country.”



Things to know about a micropolitan


The March 2017 edition of Site Selection magazine lists Washington as tied for 78th among the top micropolitans in the nation for 2016.

The White House Office of Management and Budget defines a micropolitan statistical area as one or more adjacent counties that have at least one urban core area of at least 10,000 population but less than 50,000 population, plus surrounding area that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measure by commuting ties.

In Site Selection, North Carolina was tied with Georgia for second place among states with the most micropolitan areas. First-place Ohio had 18 such areas, with North Carolina and George each at 12 micropolitan areas. North Carolina had 53 projects to Georgia’s 47 projects. Ohio had 111 projects.

The micropolitans are ranked based on the number of qualifying major investment projects they have under way. Projects include, but are not limited to, expansion of existing businesses and industries and bringing in new ones. Washington has two qualifying projects, including the one to convert the former Fowle Building into a brewery/restaurant and residential facility.

New Vision Partners LLC, the recipient of a $500,000 grant, has plans to reuse the building that once housed Fowle & Sons General Merchandise. According to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the three-story building, vacant for 40 years, will house Castle Island Brewery. There has been at least one previous attempt to put a brewery of some type in the building.

Findlay, Ohio, with its 22 projects, is ranked the No. 1 micropolitan area by number of projects, according to Site Selection.

“We like to see smart growth rather than one big boom,” said Tim Mayle, director of economic development for the Findlay-Hancock County Alliance.

Shelby, in western North Carolina, is ranked fourth with 11 projects. Lumberton and Wilson are ninth and 10th on the list, respectively. Also tied at 78th on the list are Albemarle, Henderson, Marion and about 50 other cities and towns.

“The advantage to a smaller economy is they are politically more nimble. It’s much harder for a large government to react to a problem than it is for a small government. A micropolitan government can immediately address the needs of its companies in a better fashion than a large government,” said William Fruth, founder and owner of POLICOM, an independent research firm, in Site Selection magazine.

“It’s also a characteristic of the strongest micropolitan economies,” Fruth noted, “to have active, well-financed, professionally operated economic development organizations. One of the reasons is that organization can see what needs to be done to build the economy. They can tell the community, ‘We have to connect to the Interstate. We have to have a more sophisticated worker training program.’ An economic development organization has to be there to do that.

“If the community doesn’t want growth to happen,” said Fruth, “it won’t happen.”


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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