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Why Is Business Booming in Elizabeth City?

Improvements in infrastructure and stellar community support are among the reasons why success can be found here.

By Val Hunt Beerbower on March 3, 2022

Downtown Elizabeth City
Sam Dean/Visit NC

Elizabeth City residents know how to get around. No, really. Thanks to robust upgrades to the region’s infrastructure, transportation options here are convenient, and they’re spurring growth and development for the local business community.

Construction projects set to start in 2022 include the U.S. Route 17 Bypass, which will pave the way for a $1 billion interstate highway planned to connect Norfolk, Virginia, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The new highway will follow U.S. 64 from Raleigh to Williamston, continue on U.S. 17 near Elizabeth City and up into Virginia. The $100 million bypass project is expected to wrap up by 2030.

Big infrastructure projects bode well for businesses in Elizabeth City. Developments have flourished around City Center Boulevard, and business owners here welcome the change.

F&H Print Sign Design in Elizabeth City
Carol Flowers

Businesses Sprouting Everywhere

Carol and Danny Flowers, Elizabeth City natives, launched F&H Print Sign Design in 1996, and today, the couple, along with partner and high school chum Steve Hallett, create screen printing, embroidery, signs and promotional products. As pioneers in this particular corridor, Carol Flowers says they’ve seen big changes in the area.

“We were one of the first businesses in our area,” she says. “We built in 2009 and then went through the downturn in the economy. In the last several years, more businesses have started to build on our end of the Halstead Corridor. There are several more businesses building in the area in the next few years, and we feel there will be even more traffic in this area. Further out the corridor near Walmart, business has been exploding. I do feel that (road construction) will bring more people from the surrounding counties to our area.”

Ben and Jane Wysor, owners of The Recycled Reader in Elizabeth City
The Recycled Reader

Road Extension Fuels Boom

Ben and Jane Wysor, owners of The Recycled Reader bookstore, have been at their location in the F&H Print Sign Design building on City Center since 2016. Ben Wysor notes that Halstead Extended has become much more traveled in the past five years, due to the increase in new businesses and its connection to U.S. 17 Bypass.

“Our customers from outside of Elizabeth City, especially Hertford and Edenton, have found the bypass convenient to get to our shop,” he says. “We’ve also seen an increase in visitors making day trips from Virginia to Elizabeth City just to visit our bookstore and grab a meal.”

New builds in the area include R/C Albemarle Movies 8, which opened in Elizabeth City in February 2021. Jane Wysor says the additions establish a family-friendly atmosphere where a whole day can be enjoyed in Elizabeth City.

Business Benefits in Elizabeth City

• A low corporate tax rate and low property tax rates
• A lower cost of industrial land (compared to Virginia)
• A low cost of living (compared to other N.C. cities)
• A mature workforce (military veterans)
• A flourishing downtown

“We feel lucky to have our business in a space that allows it to be a part of a family’s special day,” she says. “Lunch at 3 Amigos, dessert at Berri Licious, pick out a book or two (from our shop), and then head to the movies at the R/C.”

But just because big brands are moving in doesn’t mean the retail scene is losing its charm. F&H hosts Sip & Shop Days, where it collaborates with other merchants in the area – even online retailers – to offer residents a fun night of shopping and events.

“We are a very close-knit community,” Carol Flowers says. “I often have friends and family from larger cities who envy how the businesses come together.”

The Wysors say they value how Elizabeth City’s business community is especially supportive of its locals. “From patronizing local businesses and sharing that experience online to keeping money local to fulfill business needs, like getting T-shirts, banners and other materials made, or using local catering companies and event spaces, I see a lot of cooperation among businesses,” Ben Wysor says.

Construction on the new highways may have only just begun, but it’s already impacting residents.

“I have seen a dramatic change in our local communities’ shopping and entertainment habits,” Jane Wysor says. “For most of our time in Elizabeth City, everyone – us included – made regular trips to Virginia for shopping, eating and entertainment. For the past few years, I’ve noticed a big change: People are staying here and enjoying all that Elizabeth City has to offer.”

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