Harbor Town Project unveiled to local officials

Published 1:50 pm Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Tyrrell commissioner Tommy Everett’s motion to approve the concept of a regional tourism initiative was passed August 7. “The last thing I want is to be a wet blanket on regional development,” he said.

The Tyrrell County Board of Commissioners on August 7 approved the concept of a regional tourism development initiative that was presented by Dr. Nicholas Didow, a marketing professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, the previous evening in a joint meeting with the Columbia Board of Aldermen.

The aldermen took no action during their August 6 session.

Dr. Didow, speaking for a team of supporters,  proposed that the town and county join with local governments in Elizabeth City, Hertford, Edenton, Plymouth, and the counties they are in by endorsing a themed renewal of the five communities, a renewal of 25 existing regional eco- and historic-tourism sites, and a regional water ferry transportation system.

He focused on the ferry system, which would consist initially of five catamarans, each capable of transporting 49 passengers between the five harbor towns as well as Kitty Hawk in their daily runs. The ferries would operate about 176 days a year.

The fleet would carry an estimated 107,000 passengers the first year and generate gross revenue of $14 million. Start-up cost would be $13.8 million and annual operating expense of $1.95 million. The ferry system would create 94 new jobs, Dr. Didow projected.

Renewal of the communities and nearby sites could result in 200-250 new jobs and new careers across the Inner Banks area, he predicted. The renweal would cost the communities about $8 million “to make them interesting and engaging for tourists,” Dr. Didow stated. Return on this investment would be 200,000 tourists a year traveling to the IBX towns by car and spending $26.2 million.

Dr. Didow was hopeful the IBX organization, with a representative from each county and town, could meet initially as early as August 22.

He said the towns and counties are not being asked to appropriate any money to the ferry system but to use local funds to renew the communities.

Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County, Hertford, Perquimans County, Plymouth, and Washington County has endorsed the project, Dr. Didow stated.

The Tyrrell commissioners approval was conditioned on (1) seeing the IBX organization’s as-yet unpublished articles of incorporation and (2) being assured of no responsibility for liabilities the tourism organization might incur.