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EDC head IDs 5 sectors for jobs

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, July 19, 2019

Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County’s new game plan for economic development is almost finished, and it’s tentatively aimed at five “target sectors” for new jobs.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Economic Development Commission Director Christian Lockamy discussed the EDC’s work on a new strategic plan during the agency’s meeting on Wednesday.

ElectriCities, a utility management firm whose clients include Elizabeth City, and the firm Creative Economic Development Consulting, of Elkin, are helping write the plan; a full draft should be done next month, Lockamy said.

The EDC and its consultants have already come up with industries to target for marketing and recruiting, Lockamy said. One target sector is aviation, aerospace, and defense industry firms — natural complements to U.S. Coast Guard Base Elizabeth City and the city-county aviation park — he said.

Lockamy said the other target sectors include: precision manufacturing, food and beverage processing, warehousing and distribution, and clean energy manufacturing.

Precision manufacturing and food and beverage processing both already have a local presence to build off on, Lockamy explained. Elizabeth City is home to some precision manufacturers, such as Hockmeyer Equipment Corporation and Hoffer Flow Controls, he said, while food and beverage processing facilities are found across the area, such as Bertie County Peanuts.

In a followup interview, Lockamy acknowledged a broad spectrum of businesses need precision manufacturing. To find good prospects, the EDC would work with state economic developers, the NC East Alliance, and attend targeted trade shows, he said.

As for food and beverage processing, Lockamy said plentiful land, including farmland that could grow the crops needed for processing, make that sector a good fit.

For warehousing and distribution, Lockamy told commission members that some communities have questioned how valuable warehousing, logistics and transportation facilities are. Such warehouses might only come with a few million dollars’ worth of investment and a couple of jobs, they’ve found.

That’s not the case in Foreign-Trade Zones, such as the Port of Virginia’s FTZ that includes Pasquotank, he said. FTZs provide major breaks on duties and taxes for imports and exports. To maximize those benefits, companies build major facilities with a lot of employees, he said, citing distribution centers around the port from Walmart, Amazon, Aldi and others that may employ hundreds of people.

As for clean energy manufacturing, Lockamy said facilities that produce solar panels, wind turbine blades, wood pellets and more would be good targets. The county would not focus on recruiting solar farms, wind farms, or other generation facilities, which may create few long-term jobs.

During the meeting, EDC member Lloyd Griffin, a Pasquotank commissioner, asked if the EDC should add agriculture to its targeted industries. Agricultural education programs are growing at College of The Albemarle and schools, he noted.

Lockamy disagreed with adding farming, telling Griffin that the city-county EDC, and other economic development commissions statewide, are tasked with industrial development, which can create more, higher-paying jobs than farming can.

Responding to other questions, Lockamy said the strategic plan does not prioritize one target sector over another. He also said that, while target sectors will guide the EDC’s marketing efforts, it would not turn away or ignore prospective businesses from other sectors.

The EDC board should see a draft of the strategic plan next month, after which it will be presented to city council and county commissioners, Lockamy said.

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