New Hanover County has outlined some aggressive goals in job growth and private sector investment in its plan for the next five years, officials said.
The new strategic plan for the 2018-23 fiscal years was adopted by New Hanover County Board of Commissioners during its Jan. 22 meeting.
County officials in September said that through the period of New Hanover’s first strategic plan (for fiscal years 2012-17), the county gained 14,338 new jobs, $1.9 billion in private investment and an increased average weekly wage of 13.8 percent.
Moving forward, the county is focusing on the areas of public health and safety; education and workforce; and intelligent growth and economic development – each with its own objectives, desired outcomes and targets.
Objectives on the intelligent growth and economic development front include leveraging public infrastructure to encourage investment, increasing the diversity and number of higher-wage jobs and encouraging development of complete communities in the unincorporated county.
For its desired outcomes, the county would like to see current public assets and future investments increase the tax base; policies and business practices align to support the development of complete communities; and more advanced manufacturing, knowledge sectors and traded-sector jobs created.
County officials have outlined new targets, including 6,500 new jobs within those job sectors, growth in the number of jobs that pay 6.5 percent above the living wage and an expansion of the county’s tax base by $3 billion.
“It would be a number of larger employers or lots of smaller- to mid-sized employers … that is a very aggressive goal,” County Manager Chris Coudriet said.
In wage increases, the county bases its goal of 6.5 percent on the Consumer Price Index averaged out over the previous five years, he said.
“We want jobs that are at the living wage, and over the course of time are progressing and paying more,” Coudriet said.
There is also an increased emphasis on the amount of growth for the county’s tax base and seeing a return on the county’s investments. These include funded projects that are expected to help accommodate projected growth and have an impact on their surroundings in terms of attracting new businesses, consumers and investors. Examples Coudriet cited include the U.S. 421 water and sewer extension in the works and the construction of the new Pine Valley Branch library.
Officials consider such projects investments that can attract private dollars.
“We recognize that not any one private investment will necessarily obtain that 100 percent return on investment,” Coudriet said. “It will be the collection of investments that happen over the five-year timeframe.”
In addition, the county is also seeking to increase elements of complete communities in the county, with support services located within 1 mile of where people live, for example.
Coudriet said that the way the county “can best achieve that optionality is through the revision of its zoning ordinance, which is what is taking place now.”