Grand plans unveiled for eastern ‘Carolina

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003

MURFREESBORO – Coordinate, facilitate, advocate – those three objectives became the battle cry of a meeting hosted here Monday by the Foundation of Renewal for Eastern North Carolina, better known as FoR ENC.

This newly christened organization was formed in an effort to unite the 41 counties of eastern ‘Carolina into an organized, cohesive body with a common purpose – that of creating a unique identity or &uot;brand&uot; for the areas east of I-95.

&uot;Almost everyone on the globe can identify where and what RTP is,&uot; said FoR ENC Executive Vice-President Phillip Horne in reference to the Research Triangle Park. &uot;That’s a brand. That’s what we want for eastern North Carolina.’

Since their kick-off in late spring, Horne and other FoR ENC officials have been traveling through eastern ‘Carolina to conduct such meetings as the one on Monday at Murfreesboro’s Jefcoat Museum. From those meetings, local officials are sharing ideas on what will make their areas a better place to live, work and raise families.

&uot;Our mission is to send the message of helping one another here in eastern North Carolina,&uot; stated Horne. &uot;We need to find out how our section of the state can be competitive in a global economy. To do that, we take your ideas and put them together in a strategic plan.&uot;

Horne then invited those in attendance to take part in an exercise where the participants were instructed to jot down what they deemed as the R-C area’s advantages, barriers and opportunities. All answers were collected and will be placed in a database for further study.

At the end of the exercise, Horne delivered the bad news – stating from numbers on a demographic survey that proclaimed eastern North Carolina as having nine of the poorest 24 counties in the entire United States. He also pointed out that the majority of eastern North Carolina counties had child poverty rates exceeding 20 percent as well as experiencing no growth in population and a high unemployment rate. In addition, Horne said that 30 eastern counties have water and sewer needs that, combined, range between $500-$700 million.

&uot;We can’t wait for the point of no return to reverse this state of decline in eastern North Carolina,&uot; he stressed. &uot;We must work together to elevate our area. We must do this for the sake of our children and their children.&uot;

Horne pointed to education as one of the top priorities in the effort to rebuild eastern ‘Carolina. He also listed broad based economic development as well as recruiting and retaining an educated workforce as other priority areas.

&uot;We use to be the cheap labor market, but now those jobs have filtered to Mexico and overseas to the Asian job market,&uot; he proclaimed. &uot;Now we must re-tool and re-think how we approach rebuilding eastern North Carolina from an economic development standpoint.&uot;

Horne made it very clear that FoR ENC was not about superceding the efforts of local economic development or partnerships.

&uot;Coordinate, facilitate and advocate; that’s what we’re all about,&uot; he noted. &uot;We want to serve you as a marketing and advocacy group.&uot;

He said this could be done by building a private equity network for the eastern part of the state. He spoke of seeking what he called, &uot;venture partners and investors into regional enterprises.&uot;

&uot;By taking these ideas from the regional meetings, we can build a brighter picture for eastern North Carolina,&uot; Horne concluded. &uot;By packaging together all of our resources, we can make all areas of our state very attractable for growth, not just a few popular areas. We’ve been told by others in our very state that eastern North Carolina just isn’t good enough. I don’t buy that at all and neither should any of you.&uot;

For more information concerning FoR ENC, call (252) 756-0176 or visit their web site at