|December 8, 2017
A local branding campaign called “OBX Made” and a community housing
effort to remedy the shortage of residential units are two of the
initiatives being launched by the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce as
part of an economic development plan to diversify Dare County’s
During the presentation delivered at the Dec. 4 Dare Commissioners
meeting by Chamber President Karen Brown and Chamber Board Chair Bob
Peele, they identified the local housing crunch as a major challenge to
"We're coming together to see what we can do to address the housing
crisis that currently exists on the Outer Banks," Brown explained.
"It's really affecting the workforce."
The longstanding issue of whether and how to broaden the area’s economy
— with its sharp seasonal swings — has gained momentum in the past few
In late 2015, the chamber produced an “Economic Development and
Sustainability” white paper that urged the county to look into a
strategic plan for year-round economic development. In 2016, the
commissioners appropriated about $60,000 for the N.C. State, Research
Triangle International and Economic Leadership LLC consultants to work
on an economic development process, a plan they first unveiled last
Then, in March 2017, the commissioners spent $25,000 to authorize the
chamber to implement the first stage of the consultants’ economic
development plan — with potential “add on” elements that could be
approved and funded later.
Brown said that work on the ‘OBX Made’ branding initiative actually
predated the contract between the chamber and the county. "It's going
to recognize things that are made locally," she said.
The initiative, she added, is designed to get the word out on the work
of small manufacturers that do home construction, boat building, screen
printing, cabinet making, etc., along with locally branded restaurants,
retail shops, craft breweries, vineyards, distilleries and more.
The chamber is currently in the process of trademarking the logo and
developing certification criteria for use of the logo, and is looking
to set up an advisory board and officially launch the new initiative in
the near future. Also planned is a separate website to allow local
businesses and craftsmen to promote their products nationwide.
The community housing initiative, Brown said, is an outgrowth of
comments heard "every day" on the subject and its adverse impact on
finding employees for local businesses.
The recently formed housing initiative group includes people from the
chamber, along with County Manager Bobby Outten, town managers, town
planning staff and representatives from the area restaurant, real
estate and home building industries.
Plans include speaking at several upcoming town meetings and getting on
other town meeting and Currituck County agendas to encourage accessory
dwelling unit amendments and initiatives. An accessory dwelling unit is
a room or set of rooms in a single-family home in a single-family zone
designed to be used as a separate dwelling unit and allowed by permit.
Peele also reported at the Dec. 4 meeting that two companies are
currently looking at Dare County and appear to be "very interested" in
locating here, while a third company has recently chosen Dare County as
its relocation site.
In the past several months, Peele added, the chamber has identified
five businesses that are planning to expand and is working with them in
assisting with planning and connecting them to resources that can help.
The chamber is also conducting a Business Retention and Expansion
program, he said, in which "we facilitate and connect businesses with
other organizations...where they can get assistance to grow and
The program is guided, Peele explained, by an annual survey the chamber
sends out to its members to get an idea of what area businesses are
facing on a wide array of issues. These include "their ability or
inability to find a labor force. Housing is one issue that is
continually being brought up."