BEAUFORT — Carteret County is growing, and local and regional agencies and institutes are monitoring and planning for the arrival of more residents and businesses.
The Beaufort Board of Commissioners met for their annual retreat Thursday and Friday at the Beaufort Hotel on Lennoxville Road. During the retreat, the board received presentations from the Carteret County Department of Economic Development, the East Carolina Council of Governments, and Carteret Community College.
County Economic Development Director Michele Querry, Acting ECCOG Director Tim Ware, CCC Chair Tracy Mancini and Vice Chair Perry Harker all said there were more people coming to the county and more business and labor opportunities and interests in the past two years.
Ms. Querry said that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Carteret County has seen “a huge influx of remote workers.” To facilitate this workforce, his department has developed a group to determine the needs of remote workers.
“One of the needs was the need for more coworking space,” she said.
Another important need, which has been discussed at previous public meetings, is workforce housing. Ms Querry said her department conducted a housing survey in May 2021, but the data was already out of date.
Ms Querry said she had also been in contact with local estate agents to gather demographic information.
Even without considering the potential results of the Interstate 42 bypass connection to Highway 70 which is under construction, the County Economic Development Department still estimates Carteret County’s population could increase by 3.5 percent. by 2025.
City Commissioner Bob Terwilliger said he’s been told by many real estate developers that part of the problem with workforce housing is finding locations that allow for sufficient residential density for construction to take place. worth it.
“We have to look at our rules and regulations to see what we can do,” he said. “You ask 10 different people what affordable housing is, you get 10 different answers.”
A strong and stable internet is also necessary for remote work. Ms. Querry said that according to her department’s research, most of Carteret County has broadband internet access, but some still find the cost prohibitive.
“We are always going to be a tourism and vacation driven economy,” she said. “As people choose where to vacation, it will come down to access to those (internet) amenities. We are having discussions about public Wi-Fi.
Carteret Community College works to improve facilities and services to help residents and students prepare for entry into the workforce or career development. Ms. Mancini cited the recent opening of the CCC’s Culinary Arts Center, as well as the operation of the college’s military business center and the establishment of eight distance learning centers across the county.
“Our programs are so popular that they exceed the space and facilities we have for them,” she said. “We’re going to do a fundraising campaign (soon).”
Mr. Harker, meanwhile, said the college’s workforce training program is designed to certify participants within eight weeks of entering various occupations. Other workforce development programs at the college include human resource development, a small business center, apprenticeship programs, and the Big Rock Career Center.
Preparing for growth, both in population and in business, often requires outside help, such as that provided by ECCOG. Mr Ware said the council is in a state of flux with its leadership, however, and from Thursday it is looking for a new full-time executive director, chief financial officer and other staff.
There are several government councils in North Carolina. Mr. Ware said their goal is to help communities grow, including providing expert consulting services and funding for community projects. However, ECCOG has had problems with local governments not participating or paying dues.
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