Craven County's numerous business advantages – chief among them a strategic coastal location in North Carolina, an integrated transportation network, an ample supply of skilled workers – have led to growth in industries such as manufacturing and health care and have primed the region for even more growth and investment. And with its access to water, wealth of outdoor recreation opportunities and a rich historical experience, Craven County’s lifestyle appeal makes it a draw for talent.
“We are supported by manufacturing, health care, government, tourism and hospitality, as well as defense. Those are our pillars for our job creation and tax base for our economy,” says Timothy Downs, director of Craven County Economic Development. “They're all doing well, and that helps attract new companies. We can say to them, ‘Look at our thriving economy. It’s healthy; it’s growing.’”
Downs says the county’s economic diversity applies to size as well as industry. “We have many different businesses here that are very successful, from large corporations, multi-national corporations, like BSH Home Appliances, all the way down to one- and two-person operations that were started, and growing here locally,” he says.
Craven County's strategic location along the Atlantic Coast also plays a role in the region's ability to grow its economy and attract new business.
“We're not that far from Raleigh. We're not that far from Wilmington. We're not that far from Greenville. We're very close to the beach and the resources that are there, whether it's the Port of Wilmington or the Port of Morehead City," Downs says. "We have a great deal of rail going through our county. We have a lot of developable land. There's no shortage of locations, both in the urban area of New Bern and Havelock, all the way out to the very rural areas of the community. We also have an airport that's very important for some of our existing industry."
Downs points to appliance manufacturer BSH Home Appliances as an example of a company that benefits from the region’s infrastructure. “They are growing here because they can easily get to the Ports of Virginia in Norfolk. They have a distribution center here that allows them to get easy access to major interstates in all directions. That's big for them,” Downs says.
Ready for Work
Downs says that though Craven County is in a more rural section of North Carolina, it has been able to supply companies with a strong and skilled workforce. “For a community like ours, being rural, our workforce has met the challenge. We've had no trouble supplying these companies with a labor pool,” he says.
One reason Craven County’s workforce remains strong is the efforts of Craven Community College, which offers both career and curriculum programs that provide multiple pathways for employment. The college also works with businesses to design customized training programs for employees. “Craven Community College is vital in our efforts to attract industry and manufacturing. We have partnered with the college to build a workforce development training center to meet the needs of our developing and expanding and incoming manufacturers,” says Cindy Blot, community and economic development manager for the city of New Bern. “What this workforce development training center will allow is any type of specialized training that a new manufacturer or an expanding manufacturer needs. It's specific to manufacturing and large industrial businesses in that it can morph into whatever is necessary for that entity.”
Quality of Life
In addition to location and talent, Blot says the region’s enviable quality of life contributes to economic growth, including access to water, quality schools and a top-rated hospital that is expanding to include a new cancer treatment center. “We offer a rich history (New Bern was North Carolina's first capital) with all the modern amenities you'd want,” Blot says.