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Belhaven building plan for economic development

BELHAVEN — How would you rate the current business climate in Belhaven? Where do you think it should go from here? The Town of Belhaven is seeking the public’s input on these questions and others as it moves forward with developing a strategic plan for the community’s future economic development.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Beaufort County, Belhaven Town Manager Lynn Davis said the town began working with Electricities to develop a new strategic plan for the town’s economic future. The plan is being prepared at no cost to the town.

While the overall vision for moving the town forward hasn’t changed, Davis said the rise of COVID-19 has affected how the plan is implemented.

“I think it’s a two-pronged approach,” Davis said. “The first prong is supporting the existing businesses, and that has become more important than ever. Then we wanted to be able to identify what are our growth opportunities. What are the types of businesses and niche markets we could attract and support here in Belhaven that could improve the quality of life for both residents and visitors?”

From her perspective, Davis says she sees the town leaning into assets that already make the Belhaven unique — building on existing industries such as marine services and seafood to grow the town’s economy.

“With our location on the ICW, any types of marine support industries and services that are needed by both recreational boaters and cruisers, I think that’s an opportunity for growth,” Davis said. “There’s also a demand for local seafood products, and County Road Seafood has been a great example of showing us that industry is alive and well. I think those are two key industries and niche markets.”

Both Davis and Belhaven Mayor Ricky Credle say the town’s restaurant scene is already a draw for both locals and tourists, and a big piece of the town’s economic engine. Credle says he wants to build on Belhaven’s reputation as a dining destination and add more recreational opportunities for both residents and visitors.

“People come to the restaurants, and that’s what we want,” Credle said. “We want to create an atmosphere where, when you come to Belhaven, it’s not just for food, but you can have food, entertainment and some different places to visit.”

Credle says he also hopes to see improvements in the town’s appearance, including the cleaning up of overgrown lots. In making Belhaven look welcoming and inviting, his hope is that more businesses may want to set up shop there, and more people might consider it as a place to put down roots.

“People want to see that,” Credle said. “When someone comes looking for a house, they don’t look at just the house. They look at the town. That’s something we’re working on as well. Appearance is a big part of it.”

Those who live, work and own properties/businesses in Belhaven are invited to take a community survey that will help guide the development of the strategic plan. That survey can be accessed at here.