CARTERET COUNTY — With the national and state economy expected to hold strong in 2020, county economic development officials will focus on attracting new, full-time residents to Carteret County in the upcoming year.

In fact, resident attraction is one of the County Economic Development Department’s top goals for the new year and beyond, according to Director Don Kirkman. He said growing the full-time population could provide a number of benefits, including addressing what he considers the county’s greatest present economic challenge: a lack of workers.

The county unemployment rate is sitting around 3.5%, a near-record low number Mr. Kirkman said effectively represents full employment. He said the pool of potential workers is so narrow, it is difficult for new or existing businesses to expand in the county.

“One of our roles that we always talk about is working with existing businesses, and universally, the biggest challenge that they face is the labor market,” he told the News-Times recently.

Mr. Kirkman’s solution to the labor problem, then, is a simple one: expand the labor force by growing the full-time population of Carteret County. He said the more people who live here, the larger the pool of available workers and the more opportunities for economic growth.

“The goal here is to grow our economy incrementally without disrupting the very tight labor market that we have by getting people to move here,” he said. “The benefits of that are many, but it will grow the labor force, which is great for our existing businesses. It’s going to help grow our tax base because the more people that move here, they’re going to be buying homes, living here permanently.”

Mr. Kirkman expects some population growth to happen organically with the anticipated completion of Interstate 42 in the next decade, but the county has a few specific ideas in mind for attracting new residents. To that end, the Carteret County Economic Development Foundation, a nonprofit entity that works alongside, but separate, of the county-funded Economic Development Department, has partnered with Raleigh-based news site WRAL to produce a series of articles and videos touting the benefits of living in Carteret County.

Mr. Kirkman said the year-long campaign launched in November with six initial articles and accompanying videos, and will eventually produce 24 sponsored stories focused on the Crystal Coast.

“A couple of the themes that are going to run throughout the campaign are our great education systems, including our great public schools, the community college, our university marine science assets and our health care system,” Mr. Kirkman said.

The first few articles and videos were well received and garnered more attention than expected, Mr. Kirkman said, especially in the state’s metro areas. The campaign targets a broad range of demographics, but the economic development director said there are a few groups in particular he’d like to focus on attracting.

Retirees are one demographic the county has a special interest in recruiting. Economic Development Officer Michele Querry is part of a retiree attraction committee that met for the first time recently. The ultimate goal in 2020 is for Carteret County to become a N.C. Certified Retirement Community, a program which provides state funds to approved communities recognized for providing ample amenities, resources and opportunities for retirees.

“Retiree is not the traditional thought process any more. We’re looking at people now who are retiring at 45, 50, starting second careers. A large proportion of new businesses are created by people in the 45-50 age range,” Ms. Querry said. “So we’re talking about attracting retirees, but we also expect their innovation, their experience, their entrepreneurial spirit to really contribute to our local economic development, as well.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Mr. Kirkman also wants to attract young families and remote workers. He said modern technology allows people to work from just about anywhere in the world, and the state’s Triangle region is a technology hub ripe with potential remote workers. He has been pushing the county’s top-ranked school system as a benefit for young families looking to relocate.    

The department has a few other goals for 2020, as well. Ms. Querry said she is working on growing the digital footprint, and she hopes to utilize social media more going forward. She will also organize career fairs and maintain the department’s relationships with other organizations in the workforce pipeline.

Managing population growth will require careful advance planning, Mr. Kirkman said, but he thinks Carteret County will be smart about it. He said it’s a balancing act between encouraging growth and preserving the area’s natural beauty, but he wants to help the county’s leadership prepare for the future.

“What we have to do now, and I’m glad we have time, is to focus on managing that growth in a way that will not jeopardize the quality of life that we’re marketing as one of the reasons to live here,” he said. “So for our local governments as they plan for the future … we’re going to see them very much engaged in this conversation in planning for what we anticipate is a significant upward trajectory in our population growth.”

Contact Elise Clouser at elise@thenewstimes.com; by phone at 252-726-7081; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.

(12) comments

David Collins

So, we want to encourage retiree relocation by “ buying “ them do we? Can understand the desire for retiree relocation because they bring their retirement income stream , earned in other states , with them. Plus we are perfectly OK with destroying the natural beauty , that we claim to love so much , to provide living accommodations for said retirees. Of course that will mean more services of all kinds , more traffic and congestion plus medical care for the wizened. Yeah, sounds like a real disaster in the making. Younger “ workers “ will bring on the same with the added benefit of filling up those great schools . The need for “ affordable “ housing will soar but the wages paid will usually only get you a trailer in our legendary parks. Soooo, what have you gained ? How about letting it be. This will come soon enough on it’s own without misguided encouragement . Job justification again .

jackieray

We need affordable housing for our current working residents before worrying about bringing in more dit dots and paying them to move here. Affordable housing is not a run down mobile home in a run down trailer park.

David Collins

Hey there bud , these are your officials and that is how they think . Would seem To be a bit out of touch . Would it not ? Guess that is the view from up on high . Guess in their view a run down trailer park is just fine . For you . New comers are just more valuable , don’t you know .

Carteret Native 01

I'm sure the new retiree residents will enjoyed washing the flood water mud out of their garages (or living rooms) as much as we do. They'll be able to while the hours dialing and redialing unreliable contractors, begging for hurricane repairs. Let's be sure to include flood and wind insurance brochures in their welcome packages. Will the coast still draw residents as it has in the past? Perhaps, but at their own peril.

And, unless the Mayo Clinic saves us, medical care in Carteret County is woefully inadequate. I can't count the numbers of retirees that I know who drive to Carollina East (New Bern) and the Duke and UNC clinics. And for good reason. I know from experience. So, make sure to include brochures and maps for Carolina East, Duke and UNC. Perhaps some energy should go into attracting some new medical professionals to the County, instead of obstructing and complicating the lives of those who might relocate here.

asteedpittman

My first thought is, I can only hope Mr. Kirkman moves on with his ideology before we are inundated with more dingbatters year round. “Retirees between the ages of 45-50” will add nothing to the table; if they are retired they have a monthly income coming in without going to work in this area. We need to focus on the people born and raised here that are struggling to make ends meet! We need to get them affordable housing, well paying jobs, and decrease the number of local residents that are living at or below the poverty level. We need to have people of all socioeconomic levels representing us on boards and not just the most wealthy that already have their minds made up before hearing what the taxpayers want. We need to get rid of the “sneaky, backhanded” politics that will go along with Mr. Kirkman’s plan because, if the truth be told, there is something $ in it for them. There are many local intelligent natives in this county that could contribute so many ideas to strengthen our economy, but are never given the opportunity for their voices to be heard. What we don’t need is more people being brought here!!!

Core Sounder

Is there any reason why a young to middle age man or woman work all day for 8 bucks an hour or so when they can sit on their behinds and get much more in the way of food, healthcare, housing and other benefits due to taxpayers supporting them?

David Collins

Just where are these well paying jobs to be found ? What pay scale makes for a well paying job ? What price point makes housing affordable ? There is no fixed answer for these questions . There lies the dilemma . What is good for one is not good for another and so forth . The same where ever you go . Greener grass is always in another’s yard .

beachmami13

I agree with all of the above, also want to add in the limited amount of opportunities for workers with children. We have always have limited housing options, which pushes up the cost of the available housing. More housing will possibly bring down the prices of the housing overall, as more housing would mean more availability & then more choices. The housing issue seems to be that the cost of housing is more than the average salary in this area other than the lower end mobile homes and the newer houses built are priced higher than the average wage in the area could afford. There seem to be a lot of houses priced high that sit on the market for long periods of time and aren't reduced in price to be more in line with the average salaries. I am a remote worker myself and struggled in this area to find affordable housing in line with my salary. The many new businesses don't seem to be bringing higher wages either.

David Collins

Lots of focus on affordable homes here. Home ownership goes way beyond the price of the structure. There is mandatory insurance , unless you paid cash one must insure , that is rapidly increasing in price . There are the taxes as well. There may be HOA fees , another form of tax . Plus there are all manner of things that do go wrong and should be dealt with . All of the above seem to be increasing yearly eventually pricing folks out of their homes . Actually , for many , especially older folks , renting is cheaper providing you do not have a slumlord . No perfect answer . It does take money to buy your freedom . Always has . Which is why those that have skills , marketable skills , have gotten the heck out of Dodge . So to speak . Those that are left behind complain . It’s all they can do .

EI_Bill

If the job doesn't pay a living wage then it's not a real job. No one is going to move here for $8-9 an hour... especially with the lack of decent, affordable housing. Climate-crisis denying county commissioners doesn't help either.

John

Some very Interesting comments here, First of all where in this county is a collage training our Doctors, Surgeons, Dentist, Pediatrician, Cancer specialist, Veterinarians, for this county ? ( And this list could go on for a hour or two ) Next where is the power coming from? Do we have a big generator running this county? And what about a beef plant? and hundreds of thousands of other things to list! WE ONLY HAVE SEAFOOD AND THE OCEAN!! That's it!! If you have to have a operation you have to go out of our county for the so called ( Dingbatters, Dic dots, Blow Boaters, And many other name we call people not born here) But we rely on them more than they do us! For the most part Every Doctor and surgon we have here is not from here. But if your Child ,Wife Husband,Mother,Father and so on is sick who do you go begging to help? The same one you call names and put down all the time. Some time i wonder if Jesus himself came her you would call him the same names! It has always eat at me to see people here who are almost 100% dependable on people not from here and for there help just to survive be talked about and called names and be disliked. And they are here helping you more than you help yourself and others! You read about our Great locals that are born and raised here all the time in the C.N.T. It is in the Arrest section of the paper. Or on the Front page. For over 67+ years this has been my home and it will until i am no more. Just hate to seeing the local people here be so hateful to the one's trying to help them!! And one of our biggest problems here is most don't want to work for anything they want a free hand out!

Sheepshead

John you cant get on here and say these things! Most of the county's citizens here can not handle the truth. We are so blinded we want all the help from everyone here and abroad but we want to call them all names and put them down. The people here are fragile and can NOT take any criticism. Shame on you for speaking your mind and spreading truth ! And it's appalling you wright a comment and be saying truthful things to these precious God fearing honest people. ( In short you are spot on )

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