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Onslow leaders make 5-year plan to build economy
May, 26th 2008

The Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development office has a plan - at least for the next five years.

At the Jacksonville-Onslow Committee of 100's annual business meeting, Economic Development Executive Director Jim Reichardt presented the five-year business plan, which outlines the committee's five basic goals for the upcoming years.

The overall goal is to increase the wages and earning level of all the residents in Onslow County, Reichardt said.

An economic development study conducted by a trio of consulting firms that began in the middle of 2007 and ended with a final report presented in January was the jumping off point for the creation of the plan.

"They said this is what we recommend, so we took that information and we formed the five initiatives," Reichardt said. "You'll find components of their study within each of the five initiatives."

The study produced a list of both short- and long-term goals for the county.

"The first five years are to tackle the short-term goals," Reichardt said.

The first of the five initiatives is the creation of a business retention and expansion program that aims to maintain constant communication with various industries in the area, Reichardt said.

The second initiative is new business recruitment. A list of target businesses and industries that would have the greatest potential of operating successfully in Onslow County will be compiled and contacts made within those industries, Reichardt said.

Some of the industries being considered are aviation and aerospace; military and civilian transportation equipment; inbound logistics centers; communication equipment; and boat manufacturing and repair.

Communicating with the Department of Commerce regarding the types of companies that the county is trying to attract is also part of the second initiative.

In order to continue to grow, Onslow County needs to be "successful in attracting other types of companies," Reichardt said.

No. 3 on the list is product development.

"Simultaneous to the recruitment effort, we have to make sure every one of our business and industrial parks in the county are shovel ready," Reichardt said.

Onslow County needs to entice local investors to construct buildings without a tenant in mind so existing buildings are available to potential businesses and outside industries, he said.

The fourth incentive of investment growth and development will try to enlarge the sphere of influence within the county by having a more representative group within the Committee of 100, Reichardt explained.

Partnership development through public partnerships is the fifth incentive. Expansion of the economic development team to include a more diverse group of community leaders and helping municipalities to be more aware of the county's building resources is the main objective of this initiative, Reichardt said.

The five initiatives are just the skeleton of the overall plan, Reichardt said. Plans to "put the meat on the package" are in the works, and a "full-blown plan" is expected to be completed at some point in the summer, he said.

"We are going to continue to build specific goals within each initiative," he said.

Two elements necessary to bringing new industry to the area are continued cooperation and communication between city and county governments, and interest among members of the business community, said Doug Byrd, existing industry director at Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development.

One of the major concerns is the loss of transitioning military after retirement or discharge from service.

"(The county needs to) be able to attract the types of companies that would provide quality jobs to keep transitioning military in Onslow County," Reichardt said. "You couldn't ask for more highly-trained, educated individuals - that's what we're losing."

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