Beaufort County hopes to buck statewide job trend

Published 10:23 pm Sunday, June 11, 2017

North Carolina is in the bottom 10, when it comes to jobs, according to a recent study released by personal finance group WalletHub.

Beaufort County officials and residents are working hard to combat this trend.

The study assessed each state based on job market and economic environment. North Carolina ranked 42nd overall, with a total score of 46.15 out of 100. The state was ranked as No. 36 in the job market category and No. 46 in economic environment.

Experts at WalletHub looked at a total of 24 metrics, some of which carried more weight than others. In the job market category, extra weight was given to measurements of employment growth, job opportunities based on population, job security, unemployment rate, employment outlook and availability of internships.

In the environment category, researches honed in on the length of a workweek and tax burden for all income levels as carrying the most weight.

“We then calculated the total score for each state based on its weighted average across all metrics and used the resulting scores to construct our final ranking,” the WalletHub website states.

Beaufort County, specifically, is no stranger to economic decline and the need for job creation. Officials are working to avoid becoming just another statistic.

In a previous interview, Martyn Johnson, Beaufort County economic development director, listed three main talking points: education, access and infrastructure.

Johnson said improvements in interstate highways and at the Washington-Warren Airport have brought more people into the area. The internet has also made it possible for people to live in Beaufort County, while garnering a statewide (or even nationwide) clientele, he added.

When it comes to economic development, infrastructure is also a big part of success, Johnson said in that interview.

He said many county officials view the need for manufacturing space as a top priority, as is maintaining a healthy agricultural economy. The area’s designation as a Retire NC-certified community also capitalizes on the retirement market, which some feel has a potential for growth in the coming years.

“As Beaufort County’s public, private and nonprofit investors focus on and invest in the future, the livelihood of Beaufort County residents will improve,” Johnson said.

In the education field, Beaufort County Community College is making strides to ensure residents are ready for work, according to public relations coordinator Attila Nemecz.

“We regularly work with employers on specialized training through short-term continuing education programs,” he said. “For job seekers we offer National Career Readiness Certificates, which confirms their basic workplace skills in reading, applied math and locating information. We also offer career-focused training such as emergency medical technician (EMT) and truck driving.”

Nemecz said high school equivalency courses also play a major role in giving members of the workforce the tools they need.

As of 2015, 83.5 percent of adults in Beaufort County were high school graduates, an increase of 2.1 percent from 2014, according to the most recent data.

Partnerships with East Carolina University, which allow students who earn associate degrees to continue with a four-year degree, are vital in taking one’s education to the next level, according to Nemecz.

“We are increasing the levels of education throughout the workforce, supplying current and potential employers with the skills they seek,” he said.

Johnson agreed: upping the ante means less risk for investors and more businesses coming to town, he said previously.