Giving a boost to business

Published 3:28 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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JACKSON – Local businesses owners and supporters gathered Thursday, June 6 for the annual Northampton County Chamber of Commerce Banquet, held at the Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson.

Northampton County Chamber of Commerce Director Judy Collier (left) presents the Small Business of the Year Award to Nish Patel, owner of Park-N-Shop #9 in Conway. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

Chamber Director Judy Collier dedicated the evening to Lucy Edwards, who passed away in April. Edwards had served as a member of Northampton’s Chamber Board since 2018. Her family was in attendance Thursday evening, and Collier presented a memorial plaque to her husband, Grover Edwards.

The banquet’s featured guest speaker was Christopher Chung, CEO of Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC). For the past 10 years, the nonprofit organization has worked to improve economic wellbeing and quality of life for people across the state’s 100 counties.

Chung said they focus on five main ways to boost economic development.

The first is recruiting businesses to North Carolina.

“That’s a very competitive aspect of economic development,” he explained, noting that other states across the country are also competing to draw in those businesses, which are often large manufacturers.

Northampton County Chamber of Commerce Director Judy Collier (left) presents the Corporate Business of the Year to Jernigan Oil and Propane, represented by Amanda Ordnung. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

The second is supporting existing businesses. That often means they help solve problems for businesses that may be having trouble expanding.

“We never want to forget about all those companies that are already here today, so we can ensure they continue to grow and be successful in North Carolina,” Chung said.

Export assistance is EDPNC’s third focus. Chung explained that they help businesses navigate the process of international trade in order to expand their customer base.

While much of EDPNC’s focus is on large companies, they do provide support to small businesses as well. The fourth main focus is small business startup counseling.

Chung acknowledged that many people simply don’t know where to get started when they have a small business idea, but his colleagues can help those people find the right path forward.

The organization’s fifth focus is on promoting tourism in North Carolina. When people from out of state come to vacation in North Carolina, they boost the local economy by spending their money at places like hotels, convenience stores, restaurants, tourist attractions, and more.

Even if visitors just spend half a day in the county, that money adds up. Chung reported that about $28 million was spent in Northampton County on tourism in 2022.

Chung wrapped up his remarks by noting that many people often think of the big manufacturing deals as the main drivers of economic development. But that’s not the only way to move forward, he said. Small businesses and tourism play just as an important role as well.

Harold Miller was honored as the Northampton Chamber’s Volunteer of the Year. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

The Chamber banquet event also featured its annual awards presentation.

Park-N-Shop #9 in Conway was named Small Business of the Year. Owner Nish Patel thanked everyone for their support.

Chamber Director Judy Collier presents a memorial plaque to Grover Edwards, husband of the late Lucy Edwards, a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors who passed away in April of this year. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

“My daddy told me all the time to help everybody. And my ex-boss told me that if you help the community, the community will help you. So that’s what I’m doing right now,” Patel said, humbly accepting his award.

Collier presented the Corporate Business of the Year to Jernigan Oil and Propane, explaining that they do lots of business in Northampton County and they have always been supportive of the Chamber of Commerce. Amanda Ordnung accepted the award on behalf of the company.

The awards also included a Volunteer of the Year. Collier presented that award to Harold Miller, who she said has been a supportive volunteer in the community for many years. He was also well-known for his work with the electric vehicle program at Northampton County High School in the past.

Thursday’s event also included electing new members and officers to the Chamber Board.

Christopher Chung, CEO of Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, was the featured speaker at the Northampton County Chamber of Commerce banquet held June 6 in Jackson.

Attendees were treated to a meal catered by Jeffrey’s Kitchen, and enjoyed entertainment provided by Nancy Joyner Woolard and Calvin Woolard. The duo played guitar and bass, and sang a variety of songs.