Economic development director discusses movements in Beaufort economy
Published 6:17 pm Monday, March 12, 2018
2018 may prove to be a busy year for the Beaufort County economy. With a variety of projects coming down the pipeline at Beaufort County Economic Development, the WDN sat down Friday with BCED Director Martyn Johnson for a look at recent economic trends in the Beaufort County.
EMPLOYMENT AND WORKFORCE
While employment in Beaufort County has fluctuated since a bottoming out at 18,200 in 2013, figures have seen a gradual increase of 597 jobs, landing just shy of 18,800 employed as of January 2018. All told, the county has an unemployment rate of 5.10 percent, down .4 percent from 2016.
Meanwhile, the labor force in Beaufort has decreased by approximately 706 people in the same period. Today, there are approximately 19,800 people in the county’s labor force.
In terms of growing the area’s labor force, Johnson hopes a workforce planning committee made up of representatives from BCED, Beaufort County Schools, Beaufort County Community College and the NCWorks Career Center will help the area grow a tailor-made workforce for the area economy.
The committee’s current goals include meeting with the area’s 23 major manufacturers to learn their 5-year workforce needs. This information will in turn be used to help direct curriculum and continuing education opportunities in the area’s educational system.
Total manufacturing wages for the county shrank from approximately $39 million during the second quarter of 2016 to $35 million during the second quarter of 2017.
The county’s total wages for the second quarter of 2017 stood at 143,411,135, a 2.6 percent decrease from the second quarter 2016 figure of $147,297,395,
A significant factor in this trend is a shift away from higher-paying manufacturing jobs to lower-paying retail and service jobs.
CLOSINGS AND GROWTH
Three local manufacturing plants have closed or been scheduled for closure during the 2017-18 fiscal year. While AAF Flanders Solutions closed in July 2017, many of its workers were reabsorbed into the company in other local locations.
Rough Brothers, formerly located in the Washington/Beaufort County Industrial Park, closed in December 2017. InterMarket Technology, a manufacturer of point of purchase displays, quickly reoccupied that space. Parker Hannifin, expected to close in June, will leave 220 full-time workers free to enter other positions.
Significant job growth came at three businesses in 2017. Camfil USA hired 50 new employees, Iconic Marine Group brought on 40, and Nutrien hired 30 new workers.
During 2017, BCED fielded a total of 55 inquiries from interested businesses thinking about setting up shop in Beaufort County. Of these inquiries, 39 were seeking ready-made buildings to move into, a resource that Johnson says is lacking in the county.
Recognizing the need for industry ready buildings, the Beaufort County Committee of 100, a local nonprofit dedicated to economic development, with financing from First South Bank, has constructed a 24,300 square-foot, industry-ready building on the campus of the Washington/Beaufort County Industrial Park. The building, completed in December 2017, is listed for $1,395,000 online. Four businesses are scheduled to visit the property during the first quarter of 2018.
Of the 55 businesses that inquired about moving to Beaufort County, 19 visited the area. The majority of these visits came from the agricultural industry, with three automotive companies also visiting.
While bringing business to Beaufort County is a task with many moving pieces, BCED is looking to 2018 with optimism. A total of 13 new business projects are in the works right now, each of which could provide anywhere from five to 150 jobs, according to Johnson.
BCED is also working with local communities on a variety of projects:
- Aurora: Retail and mining contractor village projects.
- Bath: Museum project.
- Belhaven: downtown revitalization, restaurant and retail projects, new businesses and current business expansion projects and tourism and residential projects.
- Chocowinity: Industrial park projects.
- Washington: Airport, boutique hotel, expansions, industrial park projects, industry-ready building, retail and residential projects.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect correct wage information for Beaufort County during the second quarters of 2016 and 2017. These figures were originally presented as cumulative for the year.