Economic development, opportunity and education

Published 8:01 am Wednesday, March 27, 2024

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Economic development from my perspective is more and better jobs. For this to occur, there needs to be growth in business and industry in Beaufort County. Opportunity is having the training available to obtain those jobs. 

There are two major aspects of economic development, recruiting new business and industry, and retaining the business and industry within Beaufort County. Both require a lot of time and attention by Beaufort County Economic Development.

New businesses may locate in Beaufort County based on a lot of factors. These include incentives, tax benefits, grants, workforce quality and availability of workers. Other considerations include location, perceived quality of education and availability of worker training. The desirability of the community can be a major factor.

Retaining business has more to do with the availability of employees, training and whatever assistance can be rendered by the state and local community. Grants are often provided to help a business grow.

Beaufort County Schools (BCS) and Beaufort County Community College (BCCC) focus on providing training and education that will benefit businesses and industry. This helps to provide the qualified workers which are needed.

I cannot over emphasize how important this is.  

The current U3 unemployment rate in Beaufort County is 4.1%, up from 3.6% reported December 31, 2023. The U3 unemployment rate is the one commonly reported and followed. It includes all jobless persons who are available to take a job and have actively sought work in the last 4 weeks. 

With such a low unemployment rate, it makes it imperative that BCS and BCCC prepare as many local graduates and workers as possible for employment in Beaufort County. Most of our young people seem to leave Beaufort County; opportunity and jobs will keep some of them here.  

Beaufort County used to be a large regional employer. A large textile company and small appliance manufacturing company left Beaufort County a long time ago. So did a furniture manufacturer and several apparel companies.

Most of these type jobs ended up in China or Asia.  

We do have the boat manufacturing sector, or cluster, which is growing and filter manufacturing sector. There are also several new businesses and Nutrien, which has been a strong employer for a long time. We have a strong base that Beaufort County can build on.

Being a rural county with a decreasing population, it has become important that Beaufort County starts to grow again. Most businesses choose to locate in large metropolitan areas close to an airport, interstate highways and a perceived large available workforce.

Greenville, North Carolina has also grown because of a major university and regional medical center. It is now a major city with an estimated 2022 population of 90,000 and 217,000 Greenville-Washington statistical area population. 

Beaufort County is not all that rural any more as Greenville grows towards Washington and Beaufort County. We’re that pleasant desirable waterfront county with wonderful waterfront communities just a stone’s throw from Greenville.

I’m sure that Beaufort County will be a wonderful County to live in with some growth in the future. Opportunity awaits us.

Al Klemm is a Washington resident and a former Beaufort County Commissioner.