The Eastern Plains Region of North Carolina comprises 18 counties, many of which the state designates as economically distressed. The counties are Bertie, Beaufort, Duplin, Edgecombe, Gates, Greene, Halifax, Hertford, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Northampton, Pitt, Warren, Washington, Wayne and Wilson.
The Need: A Region in Distress
Twelve of the 18 counties in the region are designated Tier 1, meaning they are among the state’s 40 most economically distressed based on employment, median household income, population and per capita property value. The six remaining counties are designated Tier 2, the next-highest category of distress.
The region’s economy has suffered employment declines in traditional sectors, particularly manufacturing and tobacco farming. As these industries declined, the region experienced economic stagnation and significant job flight.
Unemployment and poverty rates remain among the highest in the state. The high poverty rates coupled with a persistent lack of job growth has also suppressed population growth in many parts of the region, exacerbating an already-low population density. While North Carolina’s population grew by more than 15 percent from 2000 to 2010, the Eastern Plains region’s population grew by less than 8 percent, less than the national average of 8.8 percent.
The Opportunity: Strategically Mobilize Resources to Support High-Growth Companies
A center survey of more than 100 entrepreneurs and investors in the region show that entrepreneurs value a variety of business development resources, particularly strategic and financial planning, and they lack access to capital and large markets.
The center will work with regional business, community and academic leaders over the next five years to provide services and assistance that catalyze economic growth and job creation through innovative business development strategies.