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Encouraging Business Growth In Northampton County 

By Carolyn Wisk

     Northampton County, formed in 1741, is located in the northern coastal plain along the Virginia border. It was once a part of southern neighbor Bertie County. Other bordering counties include Hertford, Halifax, and Warren. The Roanoke River and the Meherrin River run through the county, and are currently and historically instrumental on social and economic levels.  With a land area of 536 square miles and water area of 14.1 square miles, the population density is low, at 38 people per square mile. The U.S. Census Bureau has estimated the 2009 population of Northampton County to be 20,136.

     The December 2009 cost of living index is 78.1% for Northampton County, compared to the U.S. average of 100%. The County is part of the Roanoke Rapids, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area.

     The original county seat, Northampton Courthouse, was renamed in 1823 to Jackson. Located in the middle of the county, it was renamed in honor of President Andrew Jackson.  Additional incorporated towns in the county include Conway, Garysburg, Gaston, Lasker, Rich Square, Seaboard, Severn and Woodland.

     The Clean Water Management Trust has awarded the town of Conway a $1,611,851 grant for a sanitary sewer upgrade.  In an April 2010 Town of Conway press release, “The town also received a supplemental grant from the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center in the amount of $632,962 to also assist with the rehabilitation of the sanitary sewer system. The town board was required to appropriate and match both of the grants with funds from its water and sewer enterprise account in the amount of $287,037.”

      Conway Mayor Brian Bolton states, “Northampton County is a Tier 1 county and we are struggling to get out of that category.” Based on an annual ranking (1-3) by the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the assignment is given based on the “economic well-being of a county.”

     “Being able to upgrade our infrastructures without passing the cost onto the already strapped middle and upper class is a great start."

     “Our sanitary sewer upgrade, when complete, will allow us to increase the amount of customers our system can serve,” Bolton said.

     Built in the 1960’s, a majority of the town’s sanitary sewer system was made of 8-inch clay pipes. Threatening Kirby’s Creek and eventually the Meherrin River, excessive inflow and infiltration of storm and groundwater is causing excessive flow into the wastewater treatment lagoon, which is creating the need to spray fields with wastewater.

     The upgrade and rehabilitation includes 37,120 linear feet of clay pipe, 151 manhole repairs and 198 sewer service connections and repairs.  A construction contract has been awarded to Reynolds Inlining.

     According to Conway Town Administrator, Nancy Jenkins, before construction can start, two instrumental project activities need to complete. “The pipeline smoke test has recently completed, along with the video of the pipelines.  The video shows if and where roots and cracks exist throughout the system. Construction on the project is set to start by the end of the year.”

     Conway Town Officials, Engineering firm Mack Gay Associates and the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments have been in the works planning to correct this problem for several years. They are “elated that the proposed sanitary sewer rehabilitation project has finally arrived.”

     Agriculture, including crops and livestock,  is the “economic driver” with $113,946,742 in annual cash receipts according to 2008 North Carolina Department of Agriculture (NCDA) records.  The NCDA ranked Northampton County 27th in the state. The income from crops included cotton, corn for grain, peanuts, sorghum, soybeans, wheat, nursery, greenhouse and floriculture.  The income from livestock includes hogs and pigs, broilers, cattle and beef cows.

     The Northampton County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, supported by NC State University and NC A&T University, plays a major role with providing skills and knowledge to farmers and citizens.  Through educational programs, farmers are learning how to make decisions focused on increasing net farm income by managing production costs. According to a 2009 Northampton County Program Impact Report prepared by the Northampton County Center, the Extension production and marketing recommendations helped increase net income for forty farmers.

     In addition, educational programs to promote environmental conservation were developed. As a result of these programs, the report says that due to the participants increased knowledge that “65 pesticide applicators were recertified, 2,271 gallons of used motor oil were collected to be recycled, 4,124 pounds of old pesticides were collected for proper disposal, 5,570 pesticide containers and drums were granulated to be recycled and 9 waste managers were certified on Best Management Practices.”

     The 4-H Program in Northampton County has over 1,270 young people involved. Caroline Browne, Extension Agent  4-H Youth Development said, “We are currently focusing on the 4-H state wide initiative ‘Hungry to Help’".

     “4-H members across the state are joining together to fight hunger and Northampton County is taking an active part in the fight.” Browne adds, “This summer we had our kick-off event at the United Methodist Church in Jackson where we helped with their food distribution to residents of Northampton County. The church has partnered with the Food Bank of the Albemarle and the church has allowed 4-H to also participate in their monthly food distributions.”

     Browne is hoping to host a food drive with the 4-H at a local school.

     The extension also provides education to youth on health, nutrition, obesity and lack of physical activity. Other extension programs centered on our current economic environment include financial and debt management programs.

     The independent, non-profit North Carolina Center for Automobile Research (NCCAR) is open and ready for clients.  NCCAR, located along I-95 in Garysburg, is designed to exact standards to allow for research, testing and development demands for the automotive industry.  According to NCCAR’s website, “State sponsorship and affiliation with North Carolina’s university and community college system offers exceptional opportunities for matching the innovative talents of the world’s automotive industry with the research capacity and business development resources of the State of North Carolina.”  For more information, visit www.nccar.us.

     Residents of Northampton and surrounding counties have learned recently that the Roanoke-Chowan Hospital (RCH) was ranked in the top 5 in the state for its gastrointestinal (GI) surgery and care.  The hospital ranked #4 for GI surgery and #5 in GI care.

     Sue Lassiter, RCH President, is proud of the surgeons, nurses, doctors and other related GI staff who helped put RCH in the top five list of “best hospitals in the state.”

     The hospital is a part of University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina and affiliated with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

     Mayor Bolton encourages, “Businesses looking to expand should look hard at Conway. When the Georgia-Pacific Hardboard facility shut down, 300 people lost their jobs and our town budget took a $100,000 annual hit. We have slowly recovered from that but we have people that are hungry for work.”

     “The old Georgia-Pacific Hardboard Plant property would be a great place to establish a manufacturing facility,” Mayor Bolton added.

     Conway is located at Highway 158 and Highway 35, which are major routes to Interstate 95 and the Outer Banks. For more information about Conway, visit www.townofconwaync.com

Reprinted from Carolina Business online.

 

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