Blueprint for Bertie

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Introduction & Executive Summary

Economic development is intended to make a place better for the people and businesses that are there and more attractive to those that might come. It can represent a wide variety of activities ranging from targeted industrial recruitment to K-12 education reform. However, many of the old approaches to economic development leave the community without any real sense of control, agency, or power. This plan is different. The plan’s long term vision, findings, goals, and recommendations are all designed by and created for community members and leaders.

The immediate needs and future desires of the people of Bertie County serve as the vision of this plan. The people of Bertie County envision a bright future and tremendous opportunity for economic growth. This vision includes convenient retail options, wealth-generating job opportunities, better education outcomes, local entertainment and recreation, and a more close-knit sense of community. The people’s vision is broad and inspiring. For a summary of all of the community meetings held over the past sixteen months, please see Appendix B.

Residents’ observations, reflections of those who serve the county, and extensive research all helped to determine the findings and specific goals of this plan. NCGrowth hosted a series of open community meetings, engaged in dozens of interviews with community leaders and workforce development providers, and performed an in-depth demographic and economic analysis of the county. Key findings include:

  • There is a willing workforce of currently under-employed and unemployed residents in Bertie County; however, available jobs are too few, do not pay a living wage, and/or require high qualifications.
  • A wide variety of adult education and training opportunities exist, but they are far from where people live.
  • There is tremendous opportunity for new and existing small businesses (retail, healthcare, entertainment, etc.) in Bertie because people often drive great distances and leave the county for shopping.
  • Businesses want to locate in Bertie County, but available land options are limited.
  • Abundant county resources are underutilized and poorly marketed, in part because of limited coordination.
  • People and business lack access to banks and financial services.
  • Existing community organizations are doing amazing work, but they need more support and coordination.

This community feedback and research revealed three goals to support economic growth in Bertie County:

  • Empower the people who want better job opportunities with targeted workforce training. This will also help support industrial recruitment and business growth.
  • Accelerate the good work of community leaders and organizations through improved coordination with public and private institutions.
  • Jump-start the strategic use and marketing of underutilized resources.

The foundation and goals motivated a series of recommendations including:

  • Create a community economic development task force. Members of the leadership team should represent a diverse cross section of Bertie County’s residents.
  • Make training and education opportunities more accessible.
  • Provide Career Readiness Certificate testing for all high school students.
  • Align the goals of employers, workforce development, and K-12 education (WorkReady Community model).
  • Improve county marketing and branding.

Many existing initiatives are already moving Bertie County closer to a collective vision for the future. Some of these initiatives are identified throughout this plan as examples of what is possible with limited resources.

The study team would like to thank the people of Bertie county and the professionals who serve the county for their tremendous support throughout this planning process. We would also like to thank the Bertie County Commissioners and the Economic Development Board for inviting us to their community.

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Stephanie Smith and E-TAP Manager Elizabeth Basnight address the Windsor-Bertie County Chamber of Commerce

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A Powellsville resident talking with Eric Breit after a Mayor-County Commissioner meeting

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Stephanie Smith guiding community members through a planning exercise in Windsor

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Residents at the Aulander community meeting

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Colerain Mayor Burney Baker speaking with Mark Little