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Columbia aldermen endorse Harbor Town grant request

The Columbia Board of Aldermen on Aug. 3 endorsed a grant request that would advance a proposal to operate high-speed passenger ferries between five area towns and the Outer Banks.

The Harbor Town Project, initiated by a professor in the School of Business at UNC-Chapel Hill, has been around for a couple of years, but it has received only cautious approval from Columbia’s leaders, primarily because the town’s share of costs has not been determined.

The town’s resolution calls on the U.S. Economic Development Administration to fund a grant request, in an as yet undetermined amount, from COVID-19 pandemic appropriations made by Congress last spring.

The aldermen’s resolution reads:

“WHEREAS, The Town of Columbia is located in northeastern North Carolina and is a member of the Harbor Towns Group (Hertford, Plymouth, Edenton, Elizabeth City and Columbia); and

“WHEREAS, these five municipalities are located on rivers that flow into the Albemarle Sound, connecting the towns as a collective tourist destination and regional economy; and

“WHEREAS, the economy of each town is impacted both positively and negatively by business and tourism related activities in the other towns; and

“WHEREAS, because of proximity of the towns to each other, events that impact businesses in one town can result in employment loss or gain of residents in all of the Harbor Towns; and

“WHEREAS, the COVlD-19 pandemic has had a significant negative impact on tourism and therefore on the public and private sectors in each of the Harbor Towns and across the region, including loss of tourism related tax revenues, reduced hours and employee lay-offs; and

“WHEREAS, marketing is essential to the success of the combined economies of all five towns,

“NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Town of Columbia Board of Aldermen endorses the proposal of the Harbor Towns Project to request an EDA CARES grant to support tourism based pandemic recovery and resilience efforts that will benefit public and private sector economic recovery through a regional marketing and promotional initiative.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provides the Economic Development Administration (EDA) with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, the EDA website states.

EDA CARES Act Recovery Assistance provides a wide-range of financial assistance to communities and regions as they respond to and recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

On May 7, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross made EDA’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance funding available. EDA intends to deploy its CARES Act funding as quickly, effectively, and efficiently as possible, and in a manner that meets communities needs, the website statement concludes.