Onslow County has long been home to the Marine Corps, which has fostered a stable economic engine for the coastal county of more 190,000 people.
The county holds military bases Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River and Camp Johnson, home of Marine Corps Combat Service Support Schools.
“We want to provide a variety of job opportunities to those transitioning military, of which we have about 7,200 a year that are exiting the bases here in Onslow County, and we would love to keep as many of those as possible here to remain as citizens of Onslow County,” said Sheila Knight, executive director of Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development.
To help keep those veterans in the area, the organization is also looking to recruit manufacturing companies that could “take advantage of the expertise of many of the transitioning military coming off the base.”
But in addition to its military presence, the county is growing its call center companies and is bringing back its marine industry with the addition of several new manufacturers, Knight said.
Here are some of the county’s recent highlights:
ContactUS Communications opened its new Jacksonville location this summer, moving into a vacated office space in the city’s West Park Shopping Center.
“ContactUS Communications moved into the community and immediately hired about 70 employees literally within about the first 30 days and then they went to a 100,” Knight said.
The company plans to employ 200 people by the end of the year. It joins others in the industry, she said adding, “We have several thriving contact centers here.”
Onslow County welcomed this summer the relocation of Winter Custom Yachts, a boatbuilder out of Apex. The company’s first boat built entirely in the county will be delivered next year. The company has nearly 30 employees, with plans to have a total of 50 in the coming years.
US Workboats, a company that makes a variety of boats including fire and rescue and military-use vessels, is currently building the first passenger-only ferry for the N.C. Department of Transportation, Knight said.
The company began operations in 2015 and occupies 120,000 square feet of space in the former Hatteras Yachts facility, which once employed 200 workers and closed in 2008.
“It is currently [the] co-location for US Workboats and Winter Custom Yachts,” Knight said. “There are two incredibly different types of boats being built on that facility down there.”
Upgrades to that facility, to accommodate the larger boats that are being manufactured there, could be announced in 2019.
Onslow Bay Boatworks, a boatbuilder currently in Hampstead, has plans to build in a privately-owned industrial park called Camp Davis Industrial Park, a 135-acre site in development in Holly Ridge.
The site builds on an initiative the economic development agency has to build sites and product, part of its five-year strategic plan.
The site adds to the Onslow County industrial park called Burton Business and Industrial Park, a 735- acre park outside of Jacksonville, which recently saw the completion of a second shell building at 30,000 square feet.
These are in addition to a 40-acre business park in Jacksonville, which is owned by the city, and an initiative to develop industrial sites along the runway of Albert J. Ellis Airport, Knight said.
The airport itself has a $237 million local economic impact, according to the county’s economic development agency.