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EDC Director provides answers

WINTON – Hertford County has made tremendous strides in the last 10 years.

Hertford County Economic Development Director Bill Early told the Hertford County Commissioners Monday that growth has taken place in the county.

Early’s report came after Hertford County Commissioner Curtis A. Freeman said last month he thought the county should call Early in and gather information about industry recruitment.

In his report, Early showed commissioners graphics showing unemployment trends, labor force, per capita income, retail sales, property value and business property value.

According to statistics provided to the Board, Hertford County’s unemployment rate dipped below the state average for the first time in 2002 and 2003. The state’s unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in 2002 compared to 5.6 percent for Hertford County. In 2003, the state unemployment was 6.5 percent while it was down to 4.5 percent in Hertford County.

The labor force in Hertford County has grown steadily since 1995, according to the report. In 1995, the county had 9,941 workers while that number has risen to 11,113 as of 2003.

As for per capita income, Early insisted the growth rate exceeded the state’s rate in 2003 and in 1998. He said historically, the county’s per capita income had not grown at the same rate as the state’s.

Early’s statistics showed the county’s gross property tax value was $590.6 million in 1995. Since then it has grown to $1.05 billion in 2004.

&uot;This represents a 78 percent increase,&uot; Early said. &uot;Increases were seen in 2001 and 2002. There were also increases in 2003 that reflected the revaluation of property that took place in 2002.

A significant change has also taken place in business property value. In 1995, the value was $161.4 million while that has grown to $349.7 million in 2004.

&uot;To me, the statistics I have shared clearly demonstrate that Hertford County has made significant economic improvement over the last 10 years,&uot; Early said. &uot;You, as the Board of County Commissioners, have played a significant role with your support of projects such as Nucor and River’s Correctional Institute.

Early reported Hertford County was currently involved in six active projects and had four on hold. The six represent a possible investment of $172 million and could bring 2,466 jobs.

&uot;While we have accomplished much, there remains much to be done,&uot; he added. &uot;I see a positive future for Hertford County. Today, I renew my commitment to move forward into the future with enthusiasm and confidence to accomplish the task before us. Together we can make Hertford County the county we all know she can become.&uot;

At the end of the presentation, Commission Chairman DuPont L. Davis said he believed the county had lost about $10 million from the tax base. That included the closing of Indalex Aluminum and a subsidiary business to Nucor.

&uot;If we hadn’t lost that $10 million and could have added the $10 million in new construction, it would have been nice,&uot; Davis said.

The chairman also insistedhe wanted to see the website for economic development updates more often. He and Early agreed the site would be updated at least once per month.

At the end of the presentation, Freeman said he wanted to clear up his purpose in bringing economic development to the foreground in the previous meeting.

&uot;Since the article ran in the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, I’ve had telephone calls,&uot; he said. &uot;Mr. Early is not on a hit list to get rid of anything of that nature.

&uot;My point was that we need to work together and not as individuals,&uot; he said. &uot;We are not going to get ahead until we all start working together.&uot;

Freeman said when he spoke of working together, he meant Chowan College, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, the towns and all other entities in the county.

The commissioner suggested the county get together with all the towns in the county and hold a brainstorming session to begin to look at ways to work together.

&uot;We need to stop everyone playing in their own yard and being afraid to cross the boundaries and work together,&uot; Freeman said.

Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn was in the audience and said she would welcome the chance to work with that group.

Commissioner John E. Pierce said he would like to see the county pursue some of the goals outlined by Early.

&uot;As commissioner Freeman said, we can move ahead,&uot; Pierce stressed. &uot;We will help you, Mr. Early, as you move forward with the proposals. I know I will.&uot;