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Northeast Leaders Evaluate Region's Assets

Outer Banks Preparing For Fantastic Summer Season

By Christine Bonin

     Leaders molding the economic future of North Carolina's northeast region are attracting businesses and visitors by employing strategies that promote their many environmental and economical assets: beautiful beaches, charming inner-coastal communities and scenery, major arteries and highways, along with hard-working residents ready to fill new jobs.

      Client activity is very steady, comments Cathy Scott, consultant for the North Carolina Northeast Partnership, Inc. (ncnortheast.com), a private, non-profit corporation committed to promoting economic development and tourism in the sixteen northeastern counties. We are even seeing increased interest from foreign investors.

      With a vision that Interstate 95 could bring economic success to Halifax County, local leaders in conjunction with the Partnership introduced country star Randy Parton, brother to superstar Dolly Parton, to the region's assets. Now, as the first step in what should prove to be an incredibly successful venture, Halifax County is proud to offer a home to Randy Parton's vision, the Carolina Crossroads Music and Entertainment District.

      This past November, Dolly Parton and brother Randy launched the $129 million country music complex amid an estimated 10,000 people at the groundbreaking ceremony. Attendees thronged a temporary stage built on the site of a 1,500-seat theater that will be the centerpiece of the 750-acre complex, meant to compete with Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Branson, Missouri. Backers expect the complex to employ over 2,500 people, a significant comeback in light of the serious loss of textile jobs in the region. With the addition of new motels, stores and recreational activities, the complex is projected to become a major tourist attraction, luring motorists from all over the country that will use the already in place infrastructure of Interstate 95.

      Recently, Hyde County residents joined local and state economic leaders, along with representatives from the Partnership, at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Rose Acre Farms egg producing facility, the result of the hard work of leaders who recognized the region's strong commitment to agriculture endeavors. Not only will Rose Acre employ 125 and invest over $56 million, they are committed to feeding their chickens with grains purchased from local farmers within a four- to five-county radius. Rose Acre has also committed to using their proprietary ammonia-reduced feed formula, designed to reduce negative effects on the environment.

      The Northeast Partnership was also involved in attracting Agri Ethanol Products (AEPNC) to build a new plant in Beaufort County, in conjunction with Beaufort County and state economic leaders. AEPNC will bring a $150 million investment to the area, as well as 74 direct jobs, with many more jobs related to indirect employment such as delivery of grain, shipment of ethanol, the distribution of the DDGS and C02. AEPNC will produce the renewal fuel source ethanol, using both corn and grain sorghum interchangeably. An additional crop, hull-less barley, is expected to be integrated into the operation of the facility at some date in the future, as will bio-diesel production. Phase I groundbreaking and construction start-up is expected during the first quarter of this year.

      Another huge project becoming a reality is the Sandy Point development in Chowan County, right outside of Edenton, the largest subdivision project ever undertaken in the Albemarle region.

      Edenton is such an attractive community already, explains Richard Bunch, executive director of the Edenton-Chowan Chamber of Commerce. We are very excited to be a part of this project.

      Sandy Point will be a 1,500-residence community that includes shopping and dining venues, as well as beaches and marina facilities, designed to bring economic development to the region in an environmentally friendly manner without urban sprawl. Residences are being developed that should appeal to empty nesters, as well as second home or vacation home owners, with some units including individual boat slips, all in a fashion that complements the southern charm already found in the Edenton-Chowan area. The project is special for North Carolina in that it seeks to establish a new precedent for development along the Inner Coast, calling for urbanism with a zero setback, rather than the usual 30-foot buffer, creating a feel similar to seaside villages in Greece or Italy. But the environment won't suffer as plans have been approved that employ alternative protection methods, ones that may prove even better than the current standards. The project is under the tutelage of The Foundation of Renewal for Eastern North Carolina (FoR ENC), in partnership with the Fund for New Urbanism in Eastern North Carolina.

      The permitting process is finally nearing completion, explains Mr. Bunch. We are expecting a late summer kick-off.

      Even though the region's Outer Banks are one of North Carolina's most popular tourist destinations, with picturesque beaches, charming lighthouses and hundreds of years of history, economic leaders aren't resting on their laurels.

      We spent time deciding what makes us a great tourist destination, and coming up with ways to improve upon it, explains Ms. Carolyn McCormick, director of the Outer Banks Visitor's Bureau (outerbanks.org). We decided to elevate interest in our outside drama, The Lost Colony by underwriting the performance of a big star, Lynn Redgrave.

      Ms. Redgrave, world-renowned theatre and film actress, will portray Queen Elizabeth I June 2nd through June 8th, opening this year's season of the very popular The Lost Colony, the outside drama that explores the 400-year-old mystery that still haunts Roanoke Island. In 1587, about 120 men, women and children established the first English colony in the New World, then vanished without a trace, leaving historians and archaeologists with one of America's most perplexing mysteries. Written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Green, The Lost Colony drama tells their story in the dramatic setting of the historic waterside theatre on Roanoke Island, in Dare County. Now in its 69th season, millions have enjoyed the family entertainment, experiencing an unforgettable evening under the stars.

      Also, for the fifth year in a row, says Ms. McCormick, we are underwriting a free concert featuring The North Carolina Symphony on June 4th, also at the Roanoke Island Festival Park. We do this because we want to give back to our visitors. The free concert is scheduled to feature appearances by the symphony's very popular musical director Grant Llewellyn, North Carolina Symphony Concerto Competition co-winner violinist Stefani Collins performing Ravel's gypsy flavored Tzigane, as well as a performance of Beethoven's beloved Fifth Symphony.

      Visitors will also enjoy the synchronized fireworks display planned for the Fourth of July. At dusk, the almost two-hour show will begin on Manteo, continuing on to Nags Head, followed by Kill Devil Hills and ending in Duck.

      With so much to offer visitors and new businesses, the Northeast Region's future appears bright. And now, with the completion of the widening project of US Highway 17 into Virginia, there is even more interest in the region.

      The four-laning of US 17 in Virginia has opened the door for new business development opportunities in North Carolina's Northeast Region, explains Vann Rogerson, vice president of marketing for the North Carolina Northeast Partnership, Inc. This only strengthens our highway network Interstate 95, US Highway 64 and US Highway 17 - that will support increased tourism and business/industry activity in our Region.

      North Carolina's northeast region; beautiful communities with modern infrastructure, popular coastal destinations, friendly people and a business-friendly environment all the ingredients for success.

      Christine Bonin is freelance writer in Cary, NC, and can be reached at bon2l3@bellsouth.net.

Reprinted from Carolina Business online.

 

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