a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 19, the Dare County Board of
Commissioners heard the final presentation of the year-long economic
development study that was conducted by outside consultants from North
Carolina State, Research Triangle International (RTI) and Economic
initiative began in January of 2016, when the board approved $58,640
for the project in an effort to find ways to diversify the economy
while optimizing the region’s economic resources, chief among which is
consultants gave a presentation to community leaders two weeks ago on
Dec. 5 and used the feedback from that meeting to modify its final
presentation to the commissioners.
The board members asked questions and made comments during and after the presentation, but made no decisions.
"I am sure we will be discussing (this report) in detail in the months to come," said Bob Woodard, board chairman.
presentation during both meetings was comprised of different sections,
which included an outline of the methodology -- such as interviews and
similar region case studies -- the results of the research, and
recommendations on what to do next.
preparing their strategies and recommendations, the consultants engaged
in 40 interviews with local community business owners and leaders and
sent out an online survey that generated 887 responses – with 15
percent of the responses from Hatteras Island.
think you’ll see reflected back a lot of our conversations [in the
plan],” said North Carolina State University’s Dan Parks at the
Dec. 5 meeting. “…There still is a real spirit of collaboration here,
and we don’t always see that.”
results from the interviews were not entirely unexpected, with many
respondents listing clean beaches, the environment, and tourism as the
driving support of the economy, and noting that barriers to economic
growth included land availability, skills gap for diverse industry, and
seasonality of the tourism industry.
addition to looking at survey and interview results, the consultants
also reviewed a number of past economic studies that focused on or were
related to Dare County and also looked at global trends, as well as
similar areas – including Cape Cod, Cape May County in New Jersey,
southwest Virginia, and Wilmington, Asheville, and other western North
reviewing this data, the consultants presented the Dare County Economic
Development Plan Overview, which outlined the consultants’
recommendations and included a variety of goals and strategies.
phrase “Land of Beginnings” was highlighted, and among the
multi-faceted overview, the consultants focused on six specific goals
that were followed with a list of proposed strategies to accomplish
each specific ambition. The complete list of goals and ensuing
strategies is listed below.
the results, there were several key ideas that were highlighted by the
consultants themselves, as well as by attendees at the Dec. 5 Community
Leader Forum and the Dec. 19 BOC meeting.
were a number of positive comments about the idea to pursue a National
Sailing Institute at the Community Forum meeting, with several
attendees noting that the regional winds and water were ideal for the
sport. Board member Danny Couch noted at the Dec. 19 meeting that the
suggestion to create an educational center on the Outer Banks – similar
to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute on Cape Cod, could work well
on Hatteras Island, alluding to the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in
Hatteras Village as a prospective site.
addition, there was much emphasis by both the consultants and the
ensuing comments from attendees on attracting a wave of “work from
home” businesses and employees. A growing number of companies and / or
employees, such as computer programmers and freelancers, are working
100 percent remotely, and can therefore live and work anywhere in the
world. The consultants suggested that this segment of the population
would be attracted by the Outer Banks, because of its natural beauty.
Commissioner Jack Shea noted at the commissioners' meeting that
marketing to CEOs of national businesses could help with attracting a
consultants also noted the prospective gains of working with and / or
focusing on already established resources, including the Chamber of
Commerce, the Visitors Bureau, the Outer Banks Hospital, the College of
the Albemarle, and the Coastal Studies Institute to find additional
economic growth opportunities and attract new residents and / or
these broad results, the consultants outlined a series of strategies
that could be implemented over the course of two years.
For the first year, the consultants suggested that the county do the following:
- Develop a two-year performance contract to track results of the ensuing initiatives
- Appoint / hire a county employee to focus on economic development
- Establish an Economic Development Coordinating Council with all affected parties and community leaders at the table
- Help the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau with resources for enhancing the shoulder season
For the second year, the consultants suggested that the county do the following:
- Attract more research dollars and complementary services for the Coastal Studies Institute
- Look into the development of the National Sailing Institute
- Position the Outer Banks Hospital as a regional hub for medical services
- Create new flexible spaces (potentially for incoming remote workers) that can be developed by the Chamber of Commerce
- Create a work group to explore the development of public-private partnerships for the delivery of economic services
need to hire or designate a point person to oversee the county’s
economic development was especially highlighted, as Parks noted that
having a singular person in charge of the operation enhanced
accountability and productivity.
two meetings lasted three hours and two hours, respectively, with
presentations from the various agencies involved, including N.C. State
BOC will now decide how to proceed with these results and determine any
new initiatives and / or adjustments in current economic strategies
The Consultants’ Six Goals and Focus Areas, and the Corresponding Strategy Suggestions:
I. OPTIMIZATION OF TRADITIONAL ECONOMY
Goal 1: Focus on growing the dominant and traditional economic sectors in Dare County.
1. Focus on tourism as the prime economic driver; collaborate with and support the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau strategic plan.
2. Leverage the Outer Banks Chamber, including its economic development experience and business networks.
Collaborate with the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park to promote,
enhance, and offer business opportunities for marine-related
Leverage partners to provide existing industry support services to all
key, identified businesses in real estate, construction, agri-business,
commercial fishing, and retail businesses.
II. TARGETED GROWTH & ATTRACTION FOR ECONOMIC DIVERSIFICATION
Goal 2: Develop new economic initiatives to diversify the traditional Dare County economy.
Leverage the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau to advance innovative
directions, including expanding the shoulder season, sports recreation,
and expansion of events.
2. Engage and support the Outer Banks Hospital in diversifying healthcare resources and options.
3. Expand/diversity retirement options; link to healthcare and tourism.
4. Refine criteria; pursue attraction of professional firms that can live/work anywhere (telework).
Leverage the distinctive asset, the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI), to
attract allied industries, develop an entrepreneur ecosystem, and the
teaching mission to include year-round students.
6. Focus on wind and water assets; advance the business plan for a proposed National Sailing Center.
III. INFRASTRUCTURE (ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT “PRODUCT”)
Goal 3: Ensure the sustainability and enhancement of tangible assets needed for economic development.
1. Recognize water and water access as prime assets; develop policies to protect and enhance.
2. Provide resources for critical infrastructure (i.e., inlet dredging, beach re-nourishment, broadband).
3. Coordinate with resources to assess the potential impact of sea level rise; pursue grants and associated funding.
4. Pursue programs and funding to establish more affordable housing.
5. Explore partnerships with neighboring counties to leverage respective resources for mutual benefit.
IV. EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE
Goal 4: Align the workforce to best serve the traditional and emerging business sectors.
1. Build workforce and existing industry partnerships; leverage the College of the Albemarle.
2. Work with the Outer Banks Chamber and other key partners to identify and focus on targeted business sectors.
3. Identify the essential workforce skills needed and gaps.
4. Align educational needs of the “work anywhere” segment; partner with educational resources.
V. ENTREPRENEURSHIP & SMALL BUSINESS
5: Work with specialist small business service providers to
target and enhance support to small businesses throughout Dare County.
Catalog resources and their services (e.g., Small Business and
Technology Development Center, Cooperative Extension Service, Industry
Expansion Solutions, Workforce Boards).
Identify needs and opportunities by each small business sector (e.g.,
commercial fishing, agri-business, retail, sports recreation,
3. Pursue “creative economy” initiatives (e.g. “Fish to table”).
Continue to connect with the Coastal Studies Institute; explore the
potential to build an entrepreneur ecosystem related to CSI’s work.