“We’re doing a better job of telling our story that we have something for you to come to and hopefully that will help stop that migration.”
Carolinas Gateway Partnership vice president, Edgecombe County recruiter
By COREY DAVIS
WILSON – A packed room that included several business and city leaders from the Twin Counties gathered Wednesday morning at the Wilson Country Club to hear the economic development outlook for Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson and Johnston counties.
It was the second of a three-part economic summit series co-hosted by the Triangle Business Journal and Research Triangle Regional Partnership. The panelists included Carolinas Gateway Partnership vice presidents, Krista Ikirt, who recruits for Nash County and Oppie Jordan, recruiter for Edgecombe County.
The four Eastern North Carolina economic development leaders fielded questions from Triangle Business Journal real estate reporter Amanda Hoyle, who served as the moderator, and also from people in attendance.
Among the topics brought up by Hoyle was Edgecombe County having one of the highest unemployment rates that has hovered around 10 percent and the potential game-changer of the shovel-ready and nearly 1,500-acre Kingsboro megasite that sits along U.S. 64 between Rocky Mount and Tarboro.
Edgecombe County’s unemployment rate and job market should receive a shot in the arm with a pending announcement coming from the food processing and plastic sectors that is going to create about 200 jobs, Jordan said.
“The high unemployment presents an awesome opportunity when a company is looking for something like 1,000 employees and they want to know where are they going to get those employees,” Jordan said. “We have them in Edgecombe and Nash counties. What we have to do is continue to work together closely with all our educational institutions and all our state legislators to provide the money to make sure that continues to be available for those companies for their customized training. I think from the talent pool within our two counties, they can be trained to do the jobs companies are looking for.”
Jordan said the Kingsboro megasite is the only North Carolina site that drew serious interest from both Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover as a possible location for their new auto plants, but its chances were hurt by a fight over incentives in the General Assembly. A bill was signed earlier this year that produced a new state incentive package for economic developers.
“Our competition in other states had great state incentives that they could put on the table,” Jordan said. “We’re happy to report our General Assembly has done a great job in putting together the incentives that will prepare me for the next one. Right now, we have five companies looking at that site.”
Since formed in 1995, the Carolinas Gateway Partnership has created 8,550 new jobs and companies relocating or expanding in the Twin Counties have made a $1 billion investment. However, Ikirt acknowledged the struggles in the local economy.
“Our net jobs remained behind because for every announcement that we get there has been something that has happened in the past to negate those numbers,” Ikirt said.
A question from the audience to Jordan and Ikirt addressed Rocky Mount metropolitan area’s population decline. Ikirt recognized the Rocky Mount Brewmill as one of the key elements in improving the area’s overall quality of life and giving local young professionals something to do.
“I think we’re on the rise of refocusing and re-identifying ourselves,” Jordan said.
“We’re doing a better job of telling our story that we have something for you to come to and hopefully that will help stop that migration,” Jordan said. “But you really can’t tell people where they’re going to live, so we’re really out there working hard to recruit those companies that will present opportunities for jobs for people to build new homes and to actually have our population increase.”
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