On Wednesday evening, September 1, 2021, the Craven 100 Alliance (C1A) held its Stakeholder Meeting with well over 100 guests in attendance at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center. The event, which highlighted Craven County’s economic accomplishments over the last 7 1/2 years, through the funds invested in the Accelerate Craven Capital Campaign, was by all accounts a wonderful celebration for this community.
Since its inception in 2014, the Craven 100 Alliance and its public partners Craven County, New Bern and Havelock have worked with companies to bring in over $180 million dollars in investment and over 1300 jobs into Craven County with an average salary of $40,352. This is an incredible success story that we can all be proud of. Despite a national downturn in 2020 due to COVID, Craven County continued to develop new partnerships that resulted in significant growth to our economy. In the past 12 months alone, 5 companies made the decision to invest into our area, including one of the most notable ones, White River Marine Group, who made a commitment to strengthen the legacy of Hatteras Yachts by creating 500 new jobs, investing in the conservation of our waterways, expanding the production of a complete line of saltwater boats and making New Bern the “fishing capital of the world,” according to Johnny Morris, President of White River.
Keynote speaker, Lauren Good, Director of Saltwater Operations at White River Marine Group, discussed the excitement her company shares regarding their recent move to the area. She said one of the biggest goals of White River is “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.” And with a long list of testimonials from Hatteras employees, it is a reflection of the hope Craven County continues to provide both residents as well as potential investors.
Ms. Good was not the only one singing praises for her new home. Martin Ciesko from the Havelock Regional Development Corporation kicked off the evening by announcing a $400,000 investment in Craven 100 Alliance to continue making gains on the economic front, attracting more diverse businesses and employees to Havelock. Mr. Ciesko has spent his life in Craven County as a builder and will continue to advocate for the success and growth of our area.
Other speakers included Dr. Raymond Staats of Craven Community College, who was able to provide an impressive overview of the tremendous efforts achieved by the Workforce Development team at the Volt Center. Over 400 jobs have been filled by students who have mastered the skills required by the manufacturing and hospitality industries. Having such a diverse course offering at the Volt Center as well as providing such a robust training facility has enabled companies like BSH and Moen to invest locally to find skilled laborers right here in Craven County.
Ron Sutphin, of Bayfront Development, shared why he chose to move his facility to the 20,000 square foot structure located on 6 acres in the Industrial Park. “Craven County has such a special blend that makes it an advantageous place to live and work. With its’ close proximity to the capital and to the coast, Craven County has a very favorable geographical footprint. We’ve been very pleased with our investment in this community and look forward to developing further relationships in the area,” said Sutphin.
Jeff Wood, Director of Economic Development for Craven County, recognized the original investors and thanked them for their trust and willingness to invest in an organization that wanted to accelerate the inevitable growth that was coming to our area. “These original investors have laid the groundwork for us to continue our mission so that we can “Invest Local. Grow Global.”
There are some exciting developments on the horizon and the C1A is already making investments in Coastal Carolina Regional Airport, one of the main hubs in the economic generator for not only Craven County, but for our entire region. “When we all work together, we can all grow responsibly and successfully. We are thrilled with our partnership with the Craven 100 Alliance. This partnership will provide the leverage we need to maintain and expand sustainable air service and improve domestic and global access which benefits not only the vested interest of our business sector, but the community as a whole,” said Eric Litchfield, Airport Business Manager.
In closing, Owen Andrews, Craven 100 Alliance Board Chair, announced that plans have already started for the next capital campaign. The “Invest Local. Grow Global.” initiative has already received pledges of nearly $1 million and will allow the C1A to be in a solid financial position to be competitive when a company makes the call.
Submitted by: Shannon LuQuire on behalf of Jeff Wood