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north Carolina’s

NOrtheast region economic development guide

Road Scholars New R&D facility revs up auto sector

Plowing New Ground

Farmers harvest high-tech crops

Innovation Soars Region’s aviation, aerospace industry takes off

Sponsored by North Carolina’s Northeast Commission

Northampton County

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Corporate executives and consultants have provided us a clear understanding of the site selection factors most important in their decision making.

 Strategic location with excellent highway accessibility q  Highly reliable and cost-wise utilities q  Favorable corporate tax rates and incentives q  Dependable workforce with competitive wage rates q  Superior sites with minimal acquisition and q

development costs

 Proximity to urban centers, airports and ocean ports q  Customized community college worker q

training programs

 Rail freight service with direct-to-port q

intermodal capabilities

 Professional local, regional and state development q

team to assist project planning, permitting and development

Again, we have a clear understanding of those important factors – strong infrastructure; solid workforce; superior sites and transportation system; favorable business climate and incentives; and a professional team at the local, regional and state levels ready to assist the growth and success of business clients. Situated on Interstate 95 at the North Carolina/Virginia border, Northampton County has long been a crossroads for commerce along the U.S. east coast. Today, we are home to the well-established, successful manufacturing, processing, distribution and industrial service operations of companies large and small – some multinational, others home grown – all important. Northampton County is known for some of the most productive farms in America, small towns with neighborly folks, gracious living on pristine lakes, and great hunting and fishing. Congested traffic, outrageous prices, bad attitudes and accordion lounges are hard to find here. Opportunity is not. We look forward to working with you. Contact: Gary Brown Northampton County Economic Development Commission Post Office Box 685 • Jackson, NC 27845 • (252) 534-1092

north Carolina’s NOrtheast region economic development guide

Workstyle Road Scholars


New R&D facility revs up auto sector

Plowing New Ground


Farmers harvest high-tech crops

Where Innovation Soars


Region gains momentum in aviation, aerospace

Setting Their Sites High


North Carolina’s Northeast pushes for national heritage designation









Business Climate














Economic Profile


Through the Lens


On the Cover Pasquotank Regional Airport in Elizabeth City


staff Photo

All or part of this magazine is printed with soy ink on recycled paper containing 10% post-consumer waste.

Please recycle this magazine

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north Carolina’s

NOrtheast region economic development guide

North Carolina’s Northeast Region in action

201 1-1 2 Edition , volum e 1 Project Manager Emily McMackin Proofreading Manager Raven Petty Audience Development Director Deanna Nelson Content Coordinator Jessica Walker Staff Writer Kevin Litwin Copy Editor Jill Wyatt Contributing writers Cary Estes. John Fuller, Bill Lewis, Karen Schwartzman, Betsy Williams Media Technology Director Christina Carden Senior Graphic Designers Laura Gallagher, Jessica Manner, Janine Maryland, Kris Sexton, Vikki Williams Graphic Designers Rachael Gerringer, taylor nunley Media Technology Analysts Becca ary, Chandra Bradshaw, Lance conzett Photography Director Jeffrey S. Otto Senior Photographers Jeff Adkins, Brian McCord Staff Photographers Todd Bennett, Antony Boshier Web Content Manager John Hood Web project manager noy fongnaly Web Designer II richard stevens Web Developer I Yamel Hall, Nels noseworthy Web account manager lauren eubank Ad Production Manager Katie Middendorf Ad Traffic Assistants Krystin Lemmon, Patricia Moisan I.T. Director Yancey Bond I.T. support technician Daniel cantrell Senior Accountant Lisa Owens Accounts Payable Coordinator Maria McFarland Accounts Receivable Coordinator Diana Guzman Office Manager/Accounts Receivable Coordinator Shelly Miller executive Integrated Media Manager Suzi McGruder Sales Support Coordinator Alex Marks color imaging technician alison hunter Chairman Greg Thurman President/Publisher Bob Schwartzman Executive Vice President Ray Langen Senior V.P./Sales Todd Potter, Carla Thurman Senior V.P./Operations Casey Hester Senior V.P./Client Development Jeff Heefner Senior V.P./business Development Scott Templeton V.P./external communications Teree Caruthers V.P./Custom Publishing Kim holmberg V.P./Visual Content Mark Forester V.P./Content Operations Natasha Lorens V.P./Sales Charles Fitzgibbon, Herb Harper, Jarek Swekosky v.p./Travel publishing Susan Chappell Controller Chris Dudley

Don’t just take our word for it – see for yourself how great North Carolina’s Northeast Region is in our quick videos at, highlighting a little bit of everything that North Carolina’s Northeast Region has to offer.

Content Director/Business Publications Bill McMeekin Content director/ Lisa Battles Marketing Creative Director Keith Harris Distribution Director Gary Smith Executive Secretary Kristy Duncan Human Resources Manager Peggy Blake Receptionist Linda Bishop

North Carolina’s Northeast Regional Economic Development Guide is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed through North Carolina’s Northeast Commission. For advertising information or to direct questions or comments about the magazine, contact Journal Communications Inc. at (615) 771-0080 or by email at

For more information, contact: North Carolina’s Northeast Commission 119 W. Water St. • Edenton NC 27932 Phone: (888) 872-8562 •

Visit North Carolina’s Northeast Regional Economic Development Guide online at ©Copyright 2011 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent.

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N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

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NORtheaSt ReGION ecONOmIc develOPmeNt GuIde

Road Scholars New R&D facility revs up auto sector

Plowing New Ground

Farmers harvest high-tech crops

Innovation Soars

Lifestyle Find out what it’s like to live here and what makes the region such a special place to be.

Region’s aviation, aerospace industry takes off


Read the magazine on your computer, zoom in on articles and link to advertiser websites. site guide >> Find available commercial and industrial properties with our searchable database.

Workstyle A spotlight on the region’s innovative companies

success breeds success >> Meet the people who set the pace for business innovation. Dig Deeper >> Plug into the area with links to local websites and resources to give you a big picture of the region. Demographics >> A wealth of demographic and statistical information puts the region at your fingertips.

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Tyrrell County ‌ Located on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula, Tyrrell County offers a unique combination of Southern living and economic opportunities. U.S. Highway 64 serves as a convenient access to Interstate 95 for transportation needs to area markets of the Outer Banks, Raleigh Metro and Tidewater, Virginia.

Tyrrell County is a rural community that values its culture of living from the land and water. This tradition continues today with a diverse seafood industry and more than 66,000 tilled acres operated by corporate and familyowned farms devoted to both agriculture and viticulture.

Overlooking Bulls Bay and the Albemarle Sound, the Eastern 4-H Center hosts groups year round for corporate retreats, teambuilding, trainings and more. The center is a full-service facility with on-site dining, accommodations and meeting rooms, including its new LEED-certified conference center with a capacity of more than 500 guests. Photo courtesy of Megan Lane Photography and Southern Dreams Gallery

Year-round outdoor recreational activities are enhanced through Tyrrell County’s active ecotourism partners. Cultural and artistic efforts are supported by a local folk art school, a museum, galleries and a growing community of artisans.

living in the balance with business and nature • U.S. Highway 64 corridor land availability • Vast spaces for potential energy projects • Deep water access to the Albemarle Sound and the Intracoastal Waterway • Endless recreation opportunities – birding, fishing, camping, hunting and boating • Home of NC Schools of Distinction • Within the University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina service area

Tyrrell County … a winning environment for business success with low operating costs, convenient access to markets, high-speed Internet, natural gas, water, sewer and other necessary infrastructure amenities. Continuing education opportunities for a trainable workforce are made available through collaborative efforts of Beaufort County Community College, the board of education and the chamber of commerce.

For more information, contact Tyrrell County Government (252) 796-1371 Tyrrell County Visitor’s Center (252) 796-0723


N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

Discover the Nation’s Other Northeast Explore a Northeast where winters are mild and the climate is decidedly pro-business Halfway between New England and Florida at the midpoint of the I-95 corridor, businesses with lofty ambitions are learning what the Wright brothers knew a century before them – that the 16-county region of North Carolina’s Northeast is a place where the spirit of innovation can soar. Once a colonial powerhouse for shipping trades, agricultural production and political activism, North Carolina’s Northeast retains its charm with historic buildings, stately antebellum homes, Civil War reenactments and unlimited recreation for water lovers. Boasting some of the richest soil east of the Mississippi, the region is a fertile ground for the commercialization of innovative crops. Add to that welltrained farmers and the ability to provide field-level research, and the region is ripe for becoming the center of agricultural biotechnology. Wide open spaces have also drawn the attention of renewable energy Gaston

companies. With 60-plus percent more wind resources than any other Atlantic Coast state, Northeast North Carolina is poised to be the premier East Coast site for onshore and offshore wind energy. Biomass companies are responding to the region’s proximity to ports in North Carolina and Virginia, as well as the availability of raw materials for wood pellets and alternative fuel sources. And solar farms are being constructed on open acreage. Companies in the automotive industry are discovering North Carolina’s Northeast, focusing their interest on North Carolina Center for Automotive Research (NCCAR). The center opened in 2010 and features an independent testing facility with on-site engineering and tech support. The temperate climate in the region offers companies year-round access to the facility, and the center’s proximity to ports provides an excellent U.S.

entry point for foreign companies. Since the Wright brothers’ historic first flight more than 100 years ago, aerospace innovators have flocked to North Carolina’s Northeast. The area is home to 11 regional airports – most of which have industrial sites ready for development. Existing companies have helped establish an infrastructure that supports the aerospace industry and enables new companies to set up shop quickly and easily. With a community college system that places a high priority on incumbent worker training and a university extension program with highly technical workplace training, our workforce can compete against the best. Visit to learn the latest on a region poised for growth and ready to help your business soar. We believe you’ll be pleased with what you discover in the nation’s other Northeast.

CAMDEN 168 Moyock G AT E S 17 CURRITUCK Garysburg 158 Gatesville PA S Q U O TA N K NORTHAMPTON Corolla 158 Murfreesboro Elizabeth City Halifax HERTFORD 95 Ahoskie 17 158 P E R Q U I M A NS Aulander H A L I FA X Hertford C H O WA N Scotland Neck Southern Shores BERTIE Kitty Hawk Edenton Kill Devil Hills Windsor Nags Head Columbia Manteo 64 Williamston Plymouth

Roanoke Rapids


e R.





Robersonville MARTIN



Washington 264






Englehard Swanquarter


Aurora Hatteras Ocracoke

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Students can take college transfer courses or earn a certificate, diploma, or an Associate Degree (Associate in Arts, Associate in Applied Science, and Associate in General Education). They can choose from more than 25 fields of study, including, but not limited to: AiR CoNditioNiNg, HeAtiNg & RefRigeRAtioN Allied HeAltH • AutoMotive teCHNology • busiNess CoMMeRCiAl RefRigeRAtioN • CoMPuteR teCHNology eleCtRiCAl/eleCtRoNiCs • equiNe* iNdustRiAl systeMs teCHNology *only two-year program on the East Coast

MCC Also Provides Training for Workforce Development … busiNess & iNdustRy tRAiNiNg • CAReeR ReAdiNess CeRtifiCAtes CustoMized tRAiNiNg • Job PRofiliNg oCCuPAtioNAl tRAiNiNg • MANAgeMeNt tRAiNiNg

Martin Community College 1161 Kehukee Park Rd. Williamston, NC 27892 (252) 792-1521 tel (252) 792-0826 fax

Almanac Stops for Ecotourists North Carolina’s Northeast is full of wetlands and wildlife refuges worth exploring. Here are four stops in the region perfect for nature buffs: The Great Dismal Swamp: Located on the Virginia-North Carolina border near Elizabeth City, the swamp, the largest remaining one in the eastern United States, was once surveyed by George Washington and contains 22 square miles of forested wetlands and 18 miles of trails. Merchants Milpond State Park: If a swamp can be called “beautiful,” this one would earn the title. Known for its garlands of Spanish moss and picture-perfect lily pads, the Gatesville swamp is home to golden warblers, blue herons, and many different species of birds and butterflies. Mattamuskeet State Park: This Hyde County wildlife refuge encompasses more than 50,000 acres of water, marsh, timber and North Carolina’s largest natural lake. A migration and wintering habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds, it’s the perfect place to spot snow geese, Canada geese, ducks and swans, as well as wintering bald eagles, osprey, falcons, deer, bobcats, otters, foxes and the occasional black bear or red wolf. Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park: The 18-acre avian breeding preserve features walk-through aviaries showcasing exotic birds from South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. Go to for more information.

Site of the First Flight “The sunsets here are the prettiest I’ve ever seen.” Orville Wright uttered those words as he stood on the banks of Kitty Hawk, where he and his brother, Wilbur, launched the world’s first flight on Dec. 17, 1903. Today, the Wright Brothers National Memorial marks the spot where aviation history began, celebrating the dream of flight that brought the bicycle mechanics and self-taught engineers to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where the wind and sand were ideal for conducting the first flight tests. Visitors can tour exhibits of early flight contraptions or climb Kill Devil Hill to view the 60-foot granite pylon – the site where the brothers conducted their glider experiments and where the first plane left the ground.

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Almanac Where the Wild Things Roam On 7,544 acres north of Corolla – part of which encompasses the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge – visitors can find endangered plants, wild pigs and a special breed of horses like none other in North America. Descended from Spanish, Portuguese Barb and Arab stock, these wild Spanish Mustangs came to coastal North Carolina with the Spaniards in the 1500s. Originally raised in the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Trinidad and the West Indies, the horses were bred for stamina, size, temperament, ease of gait, longevity and the ability to survive and work in a sandy, harsh environment. Living in the Outer Banks for nearly 500 years, the horses have been used for many purposes, including water rescues in the Atlantic. In 1989, a county ordinance was enacted to keep them wild and free by prohibiting anyone from capturing or selling them. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund was established to protect, preserve and manage the legendary, nearly extinct breed, which was designated as the North Carolina State Horse in 2010.

America’s Prettiest Town Looking for the prettiest town in the South? How about the United States? Travel no further than Edenton, recently named by as one of America’s Prettiest Towns. Built in 1712, this historic hamlet, just off the Albemarle Sound in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, has preserved much of its historic architecture from the Colonial and antebellum era. Two of its buildings, the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse and 1758 Cupola House, are National Historic Landmarks. Not only is the waterfront town known for its beauty, it is also famous for its friendly charm, Carolina cuisine, quaint shopping and attractions that include sailing, paddling, kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking and golf. One of Edenton’s best-kept secrets is its bed and breakfasts, which are housed in stately historic homes with hosts who attend to every detail. For its exceptional hospitality, Edenton’s Pack House Inn was given the best innkeepers award by Bed and Breakfast Directory, an encyclopedia of B&Bs around the world.

Nation’s Tallest Lighthouse Stretching more than 70 miles from south Nags Head to the Ocracoke Inlet, Cape Hatteras National Seashore encompasses a trove of natural and cultural attractions, including historical sites, museums and lighthouses. The 208-foot Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the nation, and one of the most distinctive with its black-and-white spiral-striped pole and light that has warned sailors for centuries of submerged and shifting sandbars along the treacherous Diamond Shoals. The barrier islands along Cape Hatteras are also rich in maritime history. Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci visited them in the 16th century, and Blackbeard the pirate once terrorized the shipping industry on Hatteras Island from his base in Ocracoke. The Cape Hatteras shore was recently recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 beaches by Dr. Beach.


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Keeping it Green What’s so great about renewable energy? Kids in North Carolina’s Northeast get the chance to experience the power of solar and wind energy for themselves through a traveling kiosk equipped with solar panels, a wind turbine and a weather station that tracks current conditions and produces realtime data from any location. Operated by Sprout Energy, the interactive kiosk travels to schools across the region, promoting environmental awareness and education to a generation sure to be seeing plenty of green in their future.

Explore by Paddle Peanuts, Anyone? Plain or salty, sweet or spicy, boiled or roasted. However you like your peanuts, Bertie County Peanuts makes a variety to suit your taste. A North Carolina staple since 1919, the Windsor-based company sells everything from peanuts coated in sea salt to dark chocolate. Grown in sandy soil that boosts flavor, Northampton County is one of the nation’s top peanut producers. If you’ve ever snacked on a bag during a professional baseball game, chances are you’ve tasted peanuts produced by Hampton Farms. Founded in 1917, the Severn-based business bags and markets peanuts for Major League Baseball.

Like to kayak or canoe? Explore more than 35 paddle trails covering 200-plus miles along the Lower Roanoke River and its tributaries. Flowing through the coastal plain on its way to the Atlantic Ocean, the Roanoke passes through the largest bottomland hardwood swamp forest east of the Mississippi. Under a canopy of 1,000 bald cypress and tupelo trees, you can spot black bears, otters, white-tail deer, bobcats, beavers, minks, birds – and, if you’re lucky, a bald eagle. Fifteen camping platforms are located along the trails. Visit to plan a paddle trip.

Waterfront Retreat From team-building retreats to out-of-the-box training seminars, the Eastern 4-H Conference Center offers an ideal setting for groups seeking education and recreation. Overlooking Bulls Bay and the Albemarle Sound in Tyrrell County, the center hosts groups throughout the year for corporate retreats, team-building, trainings and more. Its fullservice facility includes on-site dining, accommodations and meeting rooms, including a new LEED-certified conference center with enough space to hold more than 500 guests. The 250-acre site is surrounded by woods, meadows, forests, wetlands, creeks and rivers that can easily be accessed via boardwalks, nature trails and boat piers.

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P h o t o C o u r t e s y o f J err y H u m en y o f B l a c k B o x I m a ge s i n S a s k at o o n


N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

Business Climate

Opportunity Knocks From automotive R & D to biotech, diverse industries flourish in North Carolina’s Northeast

Story by Bill Lewis Photography by Todd Bennett


ith its highly skilled workforce, low costs and central location near major ports, North Carolina’s Northeast region is emerging as a powerhouse in automotive research, food technology and biotechnology, sustainable energy, manufacturing and aerospace. “Our long-term focus is to create opportunities for new jobs and new wealth, to create niches where we can compete with anyone around the world,” says Vann Rogerson, president and CEO of the North Carolina Northeast Commission. The fruits of that focus are growing throughout the region’s 16 counties, where traditional industries and newer arrivals are thriving. All of them find a quality-conscious workforce – many with high-tech military

training, thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard Base in Elizabeth City and nearby defense commands in Virginia – and a high quality of life that combines the best of rural experiences and urban amenities. The international perfume industry has long beaten a path to Northeast North Carolina to obtain key ingredients from Avoca Inc., whose purchases of clary sage from local farmers boost the agricultural economy. More recently, independent automotive companies have arrived to test their products and ideas on the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research’s track and other state-of-the-art facilities in Garysburg. Ripe for Innovation Reser’s Fine Foods Inc., a West Coast-based food manufacturer

of gourmet foods and salads, recently expanded its East Coast operations in Roanoke Rapids, investing $62 million and announcing plans to create 500 jobs over the next five years. With technology licensed from North Carolina State University, newly formed food-processing company Empire Foods is producing fruits and vegetables that stay fresh without refrigeration. The company, which received a $400,000 grant from the One North Carolina Fund for the project, is investing $2.5 million in a 35,000-square-foot facility in the Halifax Corporate Park, where it is creating 200 jobs. “We are pleased that we are able to keep this technology in North Carolina where it was created, in cooperation with North Carolina State University,” says Empire’s

Clockwise from top: A Coast Guard crewman patrols Pasquotank River in Elizabeth City; Distribution thrives in the region thanks to Interstate 95; PotashCorp-Aurora, one of the region’s largest employers, mines phosphate ore near the Pamlico River.

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From left: The region’s aviation and aerospace industry continues to grow along the coast; Food processing company Empire Foods is producing nonperishable fruits and vegetables in Halifax County, investing $2.5 million and creating 200 jobs in the region.

founder, Greg Hatem. “Locating this project in North Carolina, we can look forward to continued collaboration with the university’s Food Science department.” One of the region’s most recognized employers, Domtar, responded to changing world markets by investing $73 million to repurpose its paper manufacturing facility in Plymouth. The state and the Golden LEAF Foundation, which promotes economic growth in North Carolina’s tobaccodependent regions, provided financial incentives. Domtar’s decision preserved 350 direct jobs and those of thousands of loggers and truckers who supply the facility. It also opened the door to new opportunities in India, China and other emerging markets, where demand is growing for disposable personal hygiene products made with Domtar’s fluff paper. “Their demand is rising as their standard of living rises,” says Stefan Nowicki, the company’s


manager of communications and government relations. The facility, which previously produced office paper, now manufactures 440,000 tons of fluff paper per year. Made from sustainably harvested loblolly pine trees grown on tree farms across the region, fluff paper is used to make disposable diapers and other personal products. Tapping into Clean Energy In addition to contributing to higher standards of living around the world, North Carolina’s Northeast region is helping to lead the way to a cleaner energy future. Enviva is expanding its sustainable biomass facility in Hertford County, which produces wood pellets for shipment to Europe via nearby ports, where they are used as a cleaner alternative to coal. “The demand for solid renewable fuels like wood pellets is taking off, and Enviva’s manufacturing footprint is growing with it,” says Chairman

N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

and CEO John Keppler. Iberdrola is investing $750 million to develop the first commercial-scale wind farm in the Southeast near Elizabeth City. The project will include 150 wind turbines capable of generating 300 megawatts of electricity. Large offshore wind farms are also being considered, says Rogerson, who also sees opportunities for wind turbine manufacturers in the region. Industries such as aviation, aerospace and marine trades, along with tourism, continue to flourish along the coast. The region’s transportation network, including I-95 and easy access to the Port of Virginia, also encourages business investment, Rogerson notes. “We believe the Port of Virginia will be the No. 1 port on the East Coast in coming years,” Rogerson says. “A Southern transportation corridor is building up in this region via highways 17 and 64 from southeast Virginia to Interstate 95.”

Cream of the Crop strong work ethic, creative intellect set workers in North Carolina’s Northeast apart Ask any employer in North Carolina’s Northeast the biggest advantage of the region’s workforce and you’ll likely get the same answers: integrity and intellect. In addition to being reliable, workers are smart, with a knack for creative problemsolving and an enthusiasm for embracing new skills and technology. “Not only are our workers dedicated, they have the ability to solve problems of any kind and get the job done,” says Bob McCracken, manager of Nucor Steel’s Hertford plant, one of the region’s largest manufacturing employers. “Most of the people we hire have never cast or rolled steel or run steel mills, but we know we can train them to do anything we need.” Nucor draws its 434 employees from a diverse labor pool that includes everyone from former textile workers to farmers to military veterans.

Whatever their level of education or skill, workers share similar qualities that make them successful. “We look for people who are willing to work until the job is done and not get wrapped up in titles and roles, people who can adapt and learn any new skill that might be required – and we have that here,” McCracken says. That strong work ethic and innovative spirit has helped the 104-year-old Kapstone Paper & Packaging in Roanoke Rapids evolve through the years, says Anitra Collins, vice president of mill operations. “In manufacturing, things are always changing, and to stay competitive, you have to be willing to embrace change,” Collins says. “This mill wouldn’t have been here as long as it has without the innovation of our employees. Their focus on quality and reliability has helped us move forward.”

Along with their awareness of “factors that drive quality, productivity and possibility in the company and what they are doing to influence that,” Collins says, workers are skilled at everything from maximizing equipment for efficiency to using technology to monitor and adjust real-time costs. Not only are they easily trainable, workers in North Carolina’s Northeast are passionate, says David Hore, co-president of PCB Group, which owns the PCB Piezotronics plant that employs 169 in Halifax. “Manufacturing sensors is a delicate, sophisticated and high-tech process,” Hore says. “What makes our Halifax group so special is that they pick it up so quickly. Within six months to a year of training, they become excellent at it. They work hard at learning and take great pride in their work.” – Emily McMackin

Fast Track to Growth New R & D facility revs up Northeast North Carolina’s automotive sector

Story by Cary Estes Photography by Todd Bennett


n NASCAR, when things are going well and a car is steadily picking up speed, the driver often says he is “dialed in.” The gears are turning just as smoothly in North Carolina’s Northeast region these days, as the area becomes “dialed in” in the field of automotive research and development. Led by a new auto test facility, the region is on the fast track to being a leader in the industry. NCCAR, not NASCAR In 2010, the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research opened on a 620-acre site in Garysburg near I-95 in Northampton County. The highlight of the facility is a 2-mile road course that can be used by auto manufacturers,

suppliers, researchers and inventors to physically test car designs and equipment. “We are where the vehicle meets the road,” NCCAR chief operating officer Simon Cobb says. “We allow engineers and drivers to test vehicles in a controlled and safe environment.” The state-of-the-art center also provides affordable R & D to smaller, independent auto manufacturers and suppliers who lack the resources of the industry’s global conglomerates. NCCAR is patterned after similar facilities in Ohio (the Transportation Research Center) and England (the Motor Industry Research Association). Cobb says those initiatives were created to stimulate automotive development in their regions, and that NCCAR

can produce a similar ripple effect in North Carolina’s Northeast region. “We want to make this a viable, ongoing stimulus for the automotive industry,” Cobb says. “The idea is if you create an intellectual and activitybased hub, you will attract other companies that want to locate nearby and benefit from the people and facilities at that hub. You end up developing a cluster. That’s exactly what we plan for NCCAR.” Cobb was working for Lotus Engineering in Detroit when the company was approached about designing the NCCAR performance and handling track. Cobb eventually joined NCCAR, and is working with several companies to create a research

Clockwise from top: Cars test drive the 2-mile course at the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research; The state-of-the-art center is located on a 620-acre site near I-95 in Northampton County; NCCAR has acquired an all-electric Porsche to test at its facility.


N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

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From left: Auto manufacturers and suppliers use NCCAR’s course to test new car designs; One of the testing bays available for clients at NCCAR; Microcell opened a fuel cell production facility in Robersonville three years before NCCAR’s launch, helping push the region’s automotive industry forward.

and development center on the campus. Approximately one-fourth of NCCAR’s land has been developed. In addition to the 2-mile test track, the site has a 2-acre vehicle dynamics area (VDA) and six private client garage/office suites that can be leased from an hourly to longterm basis. On-site engineering and tech support are supplemented by a high bandwidth wireless network and video-camera coverage throughout. Future plans include the creation of 2.5 miles of additional track features, plus expanded VDA areas. “We’re quite pleased with what we achieved from a construction perspective, and even more pleased with the response we’ve had from clients,” Cobb says. With its close proximity to the East Coast, the region’s engineering schools and Research Triangle Park


in Durham, NCCAR’s location is ideal for innovation. Down the road, plans for the facility include powering advances in automotive technologies, fuel efficiency, and alternative fuels and propulsion systems. Jump-starting the Very Light Car NCCAR’s first client was automotive-design company Edison2 out of Virginia. The company used NCCAR to test its Very Light Car before entering – and winning – the 2010 Progressive Automotive X Prize, a competition to build a vehicle that gets more than 100 miles per gallon. “Without NCCAR, I don’t know how we would have done it,” says Brad Jaeger, an engineer and test driver with Edison2. “NCCAR was the perfect development facility. It allowed us to get the cars on the road the day after we had them running in the shop. It gave us information

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we needed to be confident that the cars were going to run well when we got to competition.” Microcell Paved the Way NCCAR’s launch came three years after Raleigh-based Microcell opened an 80,000-square-foot fuel cell production facility in Robersonville. That decision helped rev the engine for the region’s move into the automotive industry. “We’ve had an unbelievable amount of support from the local community,” Microcell senior vice president Beth Rehbock says. “It’s been much more than just going there, opening a facility and hiring employees. It’s actually been becoming a part of that community. “Having something like NCCAR that is going to draw a variety of different companies to it will attract more high-tech companies to this area. It will bring notoriety here, and from there we will see the snowball effect.”

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Plowing New Ground Farmers, researchers in North Carolina’s Northeast harvest high-tech crops

Story by Betsy Williams Photography by Todd Bennett


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he fusion of agriculture and biotechnology is creating an innovative and fertile landscape for North Carolina’s 16-county Northeast region. Many of the nation’s first farmers came from this scenic and bountiful part of the state, and centuries later, those who power the region’s $74 billion (and growing) agricultural industry are among the most sophisticated crop growers in the country. “What this means for North Carolina are jobs and prosperity, while preserving a landscape that for generations has put food on the table,” says Norris Tolson, president of the North Carolina Biotechnology Center. “It’s fusing our old economy with our new economy to increase our quality of life here and also around the globe.” North Carolina’s biotechnology focus led to the state’s initial success in the pharmaceutical industry; today, agriculture in North Carolina’s Northeast region is a major player in that field, plowing new ground in biofuels, medicines, nutraceuticals, pesticides and higher-yield crops designed to meet an everincreasing world food demand.

Farmers, Pharma Companies Partner With more than 3,000 farms and 1 million acres of farmland, the Northeast region’s farmers are partnering with greenhouses and university and private research labs to produce patented plant specialties for commercialization, thus growing its reputation as a global leader in agricultural biotechnology. At least 90 percent of row crops grown in the region are of biotech varieties. Cherry Farms Seed Company Inc., a 22-year seed germination company in Columbia, is expanding its focus from a traditional commodity seed business to one that is involved in germinating and testing new seed varieties geared to specific customer needs, with a new seedcleaning and storage facility. “We’re like a manufacturing business in agriculture,” explains Brian Ashford, manager and partowner of the company. “We take what comes from the research and create a seed that is going to plant for commercial purposes.” That might include developing a seed for specialty oil that offers different fatty acid content for a cookie maker, Ashford says, or it might mean seeds that are heat-,

Left: Cherry Farms Seed Company in Columbia germinates and tests new seed varieties. Right, top: North Carolina State University’s Vernon James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth performs applied research on crop science. Right, bottom: Specialty soybean seeds at Cherry Farms Seed Company

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Test plots of a new soybean variety at Cherry Farms Seed Company, one of several companies producing patented plant specialties.

drought- and salt-tolerant, or are more geared toward biofuel or pharmaceutical usage. Tools and Skills Yield New Opportunities Local farmers are embracing tools such as GPS-guided precision farming to increase yield. The region’s globally known network of university and field research scientists at entities such as Plymouth’s Vernon James Research and Extension Center perform

applied research in crop science and agriculture, while biotechnology programs at local community colleges supply the region with students experienced at working in labs and processing facilities. The region’s highly skilled workforce and university partnerships helped lure California-based Ventria Biosciences, which grows and processes rice containing a protein that reduces infant deaths from diarrhea. Avoca Inc. in Merry Hill

has been working for decades with local farmers as the world’s largest supplier of clary sage, an extract used in the perfume industry. “The marketplace is segmenting, as opposed to one big commodity where one size fits all,” Ashford says. “North Carolina’s Northeast region is fortunate in that we’ve had financing and leadership to grab the opportunities. This is an exciting time for agriculture in our region, and the future keeps getting brighter.”

virtual market for locally grown food The desire for locally grown food is growing in North Carolina, and to satisfy that craving, the Farmers Fresh Market program was created to help farmers in the region connect virtually with local restaurants and food buyers shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables. Sponsored by Foothills Connect, a local small business and entrepreneurship group, the program is set to take off in Martin County, where


restaurants in the Outer Banks and Greenville areas are looking for everything from fresh collards, herbs and peppers to strawberries and tomatoes off the vine. The Internet-based food exchange program has an online ordering system that makes it easy for farmers to sell and deliver produce directly to restaurants in Charlotte and other urban areas. For more details, visit

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Biotechnically Speaking Alliance recruits ag research companies to the Northeast Region Retired farmer Joe Landino says Northeast North Carolina has some of the best farmland in the state – maybe even the world. And that’s why more corporations should consider using it to conduct groundbreaking research. “We’re not just corn, soybeans and wheat – there are peanuts, cotton, white potatoes, melons, tobacco, rice, onions and sage, and there’s a lot of available isolated farmland because of huge expanses of timberland and water,” says Landino, co-chair of North Carolina’s Northeast Alliance for Agricultural Biotechnology (NC-NAAB). “The region isn’t affected much by droughts, we have high water tables and productive soils, plus some of the most sophisticated farmers in the world live here.” A task force started by North Carolina’s Northeast Commission, NC-NAAB includes regional scientists, educators and industry leaders, as well as representatives from North Carolina State University, East Carolina University and Elizabeth City State University – all of whom are working to bring more agricultural biotech industries to the region.

big companies and universities working there, but they don’t have the top-notch farmland that we have in the Northeast,” Landino says. “When it comes time to move out of the lab and into the fields, Northeast North Carolina will be the place to go.”

Soybeans for Vaccines Landino says the NC-NAAB is

already involved with securing funds for a pilot botanical extraction facility in Bertie County, while also looking into supporting the construction of an agri-science high school in the region. “Soybeans for vaccines, tobacco to create desirable proteins – biotechnology is definitely in the pipeline,” he says. – Kevin Litwin

From Labs to the Fields The region has several assets that make it a fertile spot for research and commercialization, including the 1,500-acre Vernon James Research and Extension Center run jointly by North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. Located in Washington County, the center has many greenhouses and is manned by soil scientists, agronomists and entomologists. It also has the area’s first training and certification program for biotech crop growers. “Established places in other parts of North Carolina – like the Research Triangle – have all the

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First in Flight Aviation, aerospace gains momentum in North Carolina’s Northeast

Story by Bill Lewis Photography by Todd Bennett


n the place where the Wright brothers flew the first airplane, the spirit of discovery lives on in a region that has become one of the country’s top spots for aviation manufacturing, maintenance, repair and education. With assets that include a skilled work force full of many retired military personnel, college and university aviation training and degree programs, the Elizabeth City Aviation Research and Development Commerce Park, the U.S. Coast Guard’s largest aviation facility and 11 private airports, North Carolina’s


Northeast region is at the epicenter of aviation development. Employers who have discovered the region include LSA America, which manufactures a new type of light aircraft for civilian pilots; DRS Technologies, which performs heavy maintenance of U.S. Coast Guard aircraft in Elizabeth City; and TCOM, whose Elizabeth City facility is the only one in the world devoted to aerostat and airship manufacturing, assembly, flight test and training. Telephonics has a facility adjacent to Elizabeth City Pasquotank County Regional Airport for repair of radar systems for aircraft

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operated by the Coast Guard. “We’re developing a culture of aviation,” says Wayne Harris, director of the Albemarle Economic Development Commission. A Tradition of Excellence That culture, and the proven ability of state and local officials to help aviation businesses succeed, attracted LSA America to Halifax County. The company, which qualified for job creation incentives from the One North Carolina Fund, is investing $400,000 and creating 34 jobs to produce the Allegro Light

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University • The world’s largest fully accredited university specializing in aviation, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, offers training at the Elizabeth City Coast Guard base in partnership with the College of the Albemarle. • The Elizabeth City Center provides Coast Guard personnel with the opportunity to train for aviation jobs either in the military or as part of the civilian workforce. • Embry-Riddle has more than 150 worldwide locations. • Courses are taught by experts with real-world experience who are leaders in their fields. • The university has flexible scheduling, online course delivery and EagleVision technology – a Webbased video conferencing platform.

DRS Technologies, which recently acquired more hangar space for future growth, repairs U.S. Coast Guard aircraft.

Sport Aircraft. “The history of aviation in North Carolina and the help we have received from NCDOT (Department of Transportation) Aviation were a factor in making this region home,” LSA America president Douglas Hempstead says. The availability of a labor force with a strong work ethic also played into the decision, he notes. “Good people are a must,” Hempstead says.

Work force Training Perks The support of Halifax Community College was an added perk for LSA America, Hempstead says. Training programs at area colleges and universities, including Elizabeth City State University, the College of the Albemarle and the Elizabeth City Center of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, ensure that workers have the skills they need, Harris says. “There is a lot of skilled labor,”

agrees Vann Rogerson, president and CEO of the North Carolina Northeast Commission. “There are a lot of opportunities for aviation facilities in the future.” The Elizabeth City Aviation Research and Development Commerce Park is helping aviation companies envision their future in the region. Connected by a C-130-class taxiway to a 7,200-foot-long runway shared by the Coast Guard and Elizabeth City Pasquotank Regional Airport,

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the facility has sites available for large businesses, which may qualify for incentives. The College of the Albemarle and Elizabeth City State University offer their programs on-site. One of the region’s major aviation employers, DRS Technologies, overhauls Coast Guard aircraft in two 80,000-square-foot hangars and a 10,000-square-foot machine shop at the Elizabeth City Aviation Research and Development Commerce Park. The company has leased other hangar space for future growth, Harris says. Elizabeth City Aviation Research and Development Commerce Park is adding additional land to prepare for new business arrivals. “If someone is interested in coming, we can get it all done and break ground in six months,” Harris says.

Students assemble a scale airplane model in the College of the Albemarle’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology program in Elizabeth City.

Making a Splash Easy ocean access, maritime skill gives Northeast Region edge in boatbuilding Boatbuilding is big business in Northeast North Carolina, thanks to its prime coastal location and a workforce that knows the water. Paul Mann of Mann Custom Boats says close proximity to the water and the longtime heritage of boating in Dare County make the area ideal for boat-making. In business since 1987, Mann Custom Boats is known for combining timetested craftsmanship with technology to produce the fastest, most durable boats around. “We stay on the cutting edge of boating technology, using a lot of composite materials,” Mann says. “But our biggest strength is our attention to detail, running service even after the sale.”

In addition to its direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, the Northeast region is expanding its development of marine business parks and sites with ice-free water access. The 70-acre Perquimans Marine Industrial Park in Hertford will have a 10-foot-deep basin to offer tenants easy access to the Albemarle Sound, the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. And the Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park on Roanoke Island provides low-cost, stateowned land for lease to boatbuilders and marine-related companies. Boatbuilder-friendly regulations have helped local companies thrive, but according to Joan Maxwell, co-founder and president of Regulator Marine, the people

are the area’s greatest asset. “We have a skilled, dedicated workforce, and we provide a place to work where everyone is treated with respect,” she says. Additionally, the College of the Albemarle supplies a steady stream of workers with focused boatbuilding training. The industry’s impact on the economy certainly makes a splash. Mann Custom Boats alone generates anywhere from $4 million to $12 million per year, according to Mann. “The mid-Atlantic is a strategic area for shipping up and down the East Coast and for visiting customers to drop by,” Maxwell says. – Karen Schwartzman

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N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

Setting Their Sites High North Carolina’s Northeast pushes for national heritage designation

Story by Kevin Litwin Photography by Todd Bennett


ttention, history buffs and curiosity seekers. Heritage tourism is evolving into a substantial economic engine in Northeast North Carolina, and it is growing even stronger. North Carolina’s Northeast Commission has begun a push to get the 16 counties in the Northeast region designated as a National Heritage Area by the U.S. Congress. The commission is partnering with eastern and southeastern partnerships in the state to designate the entire coastal North Carolina corridor as a National Heritage Area. “Our 16 counties in the northeast, along with another 24 in eastern and

southeast North Carolina, will make up 40 counties that will hopefully become the nation’s 50th National Heritage Area,” says Anita Johnson, North Carolina’s Northeast Commission vice president of product development. “The corridor will pretty much be everything east of Interstate 95, and having national designation simply puts a powerful stamp of approval on all the historic sites we have.” A Trove of Colonial History Johnson says the heritage designation should be a given considering that up until 1750, more than 90 percent of the U.S. population lived within 50 miles of

Edenton is home to many historic homes (top middle) and landmarks from the Colonial era, including the Chowan County Courthouse (top left), the Barker House (top right) and the Cupola House (bottom).

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the coast. Northeast North Carolina alone is home to dozens of Civil War and Revolutionary War attractions, including Halifax, where the Halifax Resolves were signed as the first official action recommending independence from England. “The region is also home to Bath, which was the first incorporated town in North Carolina, and Edenton, which was the first capital of North Carolina during Colonial times,” Johnson says. “I work in Edenton, and Colonial homes here date back as far as the 1700s.” 80 Attractions in 40 counties To pursue the National Heritage Area designation, Golden LEAF Foundation funds were used to hire a private consulting firm – Hanbury Preservation Consulting – to conduct a feasibility study that will ultimately help with the designation drive. “Unannounced, my consulting team visited 80 sites in the 40 counties, showing up like regular tourists to evaluate the heritage

Left: Cannons from the Edenton Bell Battery date back to the Civil War Above: The Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills commemorates the world’s first flight.

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tourism sites and see how they are run on a regular basis,” says Mary Ruffin Hanbury, owner of Hanbury Preservation Consulting. “We’ll finish our feasibility study by February 2012, all the while suggesting what improvements need to be made at historic sites to have everything ready for the push for federal designation.” Once the study is complete and has been presented to the commission, it will go to the U.S. National Park Service for review before heading to Congress.

Bringing Tourists to North Carolina’s Northeast Northeast Tourism (NET) works with North Carolina’s Northeast Commission to market the region to visitors. During the past year, tourism directors from 16 counties visited 118 group tour operators to encourage them to plan motorcoach tours across the region. NET’s “Hub & Spoke” marketing approach encourages groups visiting the region to take day trips to smaller towns while staying in larger towns nearby.

Photo Courtesy of The Lost Colony

Diverse Sites for Heritage Tourists The National Heritage Area designation should be granted because the list of historic sites along coastal North Carolina is almost too large to compile, Hanbury says. “Attractions like The Lost Colony,

historic lighthouses, waterways, religious properties, historic homes, museums, Fort Raleigh, Wright Brothers National Memorial – the entire region is amazing,” she says. Nancy Nicholls, director of the Chowan County Tourism Development Authority, says that having a prestigious National Heritage Area designation will attract many more tourists to the North Carolina coastline. “Personally, I think most visitors to our region are heritage travelers – loving history, culture and natural beauty,” Nicholls says. “Water and land are still what keep us going with fishing and agriculture, but for us here in tourism, heritage travel is our market, and most of our visitors enjoy small-town charm, beauty, attractions and relaxation.”

The Lost Colony, one of the nation’s longest-running symphonic dramas, portrays the history of the British colony on Roanoke Island that mysteriously disappeared.

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An American flag drapes a tree following a Fourth of July celebration in Edenton. Photo by Todd Bennett


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Wright Brothers National Memorial Photo by Todd Bennett

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Energize Your Business in Hertford County

Did you know … ? Hertford County, North Carolina has abundant resources for renewable energy production. The county, served by Dominion NC Power, connects with the PJM energy market, one of the largest energy markets in the U.S.

Hertford County welcomes …

… a leader in biomass-fueled boilers providing value-added renewable energy for Perdue Farms

… a leading manufacturer of sustainable, processed biomass fuel in wood pellet form

North Carolina’s Regional Energy Hub

… a leader in high-efficiency technology solutions for solar power plants enabling clean, renewable energy


William S. Early, Executive Director Hertford County Economic Development Commission PO Box 429 • Winton, NC 27986 252-358-7801 • 252-358-7806 Fax •


510nano provides solar energy from a 1.4-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm near Gaston.

Favorable Winds North Carolina’s Northeast emerging as alternative energy powerhouse Story by John Fuller


ith its long coastline, favorable winds and abundant sunshine, the future is looking promising for alternative energy in North Carolina’s Northeast region. Several projects utilizing wind, solar and biomass technologies have been announced in the region over the past year, and energy experts predict that more are on the way. Region Ideal for Onshore, Offshore Wind North Carolina’s Northeast is considered one of the best locations for wind turbines along the U.S. East Coast. Iberdrola

Renewables Inc., one of the world’s foremost developers of wind energy, is planning construction of a 150-turbine, 300-megawatt onshore wind farm on 20,000 acres of farmland in Pasquotank and Perquimans counties near Elizabeth City. Known as Desert Wind Power, the wind farm is expected to start up late in 2011 and generate 750,000 to 950,000 megawatt hours of power annually – enough to power as many as 70,000 homes. The $600 million investment will create direct and indirect construction and permanent jobs for the area. “The wind resources of the

region appear highly favorable,” says Paul Copleman, communications manager of Iberdrola Renewables. One of the key factors in the wind farm’s location is compatibility with the region’s agriculture and the community overall. “We are looking forward to being a long-term neighbor,” Copleman says. The winds off the region’s Outer Banks also hold potential for offshore wind energy development. “There is a great deal of opportunity and benefit for the region from offshore wind energy,” says Brian O’Hara, president of the North Carolina

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S ta ff P h o t o

Offshore Wind Coalition. “Northeast North Carolina is positioned to be an important player in the industry.” O’Hara says both offshore and onshore projects could mean more job growth as wind projects gear up and attract turbine and component manufacturers. Solar Power, Biomass Offer Opportunity Solar power projects are also heating up in the region. 510nano Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based solar company, has signed a 15-year agreement with Dominion Power to provide solar energy from a 1.4-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm near Gaston. The farm, the largest solar-powered facility added to Dominion’s electric grid, is expected to produce enough power to supply electricity to 160 households annually. 510nano officials say they are looking for additional sites to locate solar farms in North Carolina, including the Northeast region. “We have enjoyed developing our project here and working with


our partners, Dominion and Northampton County,” says Reginald Parker, president of 510nano. In Hertford County, Duke Energy is heading up the construction of a 37-acre, 6.4-megawatt solar farm near Murfreesboro – the largest in the state. Capable of generating enough electricity to power 700 homes, the 20,000-panel Murfreesboro Solar Project, acquired by Duke from SunPower Corp., will use global positioning technology to track the sun’s movement during the day and increase the amount of sunlight captured. Enviva, a leading producer of processed sustainable woody biomass fuel, is investing $52 million to construct a wood pellet processing plant in Ahoskie, with plans to build a second location in Northampton County. The wood pellets will be shipped overseas to European utilities for energy generation. “The demand for solid renewable fuels like wood pellets is taking off, and Enviva’s

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manufacturing footprint is growing with it,” says John Keppler, chairman and chief executive officer of Enviva. “Our plans for expansion in the region will ensure a compelling, stable source of economic growth to the landowners, loggers and haulers in this region.” Perdue AgriBusiness recently partnered with High Point, N.C.based Wellons Energy Solutions, LLC to open a biomass cogeneration facility at its soybean crushing facility and feed mill in Cofield. Capable of producing more than 40,000 pounds of steam per hour, the boiler is designed to burn wood waste products, such as whole tree chips, peanut hulls and other woody biomass, to generate steam to power the plant. And more is on the horizon. In Camden County, officials have announced plans to develop a business park to attract companies in the green industry and provide them with easy access to the region’s different transportation options.

Banding Together Company wants to extend broadband to rural Northeast High-speed broadband in North Carolina’s Northeast region is getting a boost. More than $75 million in federal money has been earmarked to extend fiber-optic broadband networks to northern and southern portions of North Carolina – and Northeast North Carolina is one of the regions that will benefit. It’s part of an initiative spearheaded by the nonprofit Microelectronics Center of North Carolina (MCNC) to ensure that community anchor institutions, such as schools and hospitals, have access to broadband and Internet. Dare County businessmen Noel Preston and Paul Tine have formed a nonprofit company called Northeast Broadband Corporation, whose

mission is to help rural-based businesses and residents tap into the fiber-optic network coming to Northeast North Carolina. “We want broadband infrastructure in rural areas too, in order to meet the technology needs of the nonserved and underserved, which would help drive economic development in those areas by attracting more industry,” says Preston, chairman of Northeast Broadband Corporation. “Faster, more reliable, more stable and affordable broadband in rural regions is what we are all about.”

A 16-County Mission When out-of-state companies look to settle in North Carolina’s

Northeast region, Preston says, the existence of high-speed broadband in schools, hospitals, businesses and residences could make or break their final decision to move to the region. “This is a regional, 16-county mission – we want to make sure MCNC knows we are out here, wanting broadband in the rural Northeast sector,” Preston says. “Everything is still in the talking and planning stages, but MCNC wants all the fiber installed by the end of 2012. It’ll then take time to get the fiber lit and working, so hopefully broadband will be up and running in all parts of Northeast North Carolina by early 2013.”  – Kevin Litwin

“Delivering Safe Drinking Water While Providing for Environmental Water Quality for 80 Years”

Roanoke Rapids sanitaRy distRict 1000 Jackson St. P.O. Box 308 Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870 (252) 537-9137 Fax: (252) 537-3064

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PotashCorp-Aurora relies on the region’s transportation assets to supply products to global markets.


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P h o t o C o u r t e s y o f J err y H u m en y o f B l a c k B o x I m a ge s i n S a s k at o o n

PotashCorp-Aurora’s rail complex is connected by a 32-mile spur to a major rail system that travels throughout U.S. markets.

Grid for Growth Northeast North Carolina fueled by top-notch transportation assets

P h o t o C o u r t e s y o f J err y H u m en y o f B l a c k B o x I m a ge s i n S a s k at o o n

Story by John Fuller


y land, sea or air, North Carolina’s Northeast region boasts a robust transportation network, moving people and products efficiently to anywhere in the nation and around the world. Interstate 95 is the main highway along the U.S. East Coast, and federal highways 17, 64, 158, 168 and 264 have been markedly improved to make the region easily accessible to the rest of the country. The area is within a day’s drive of 75 percent of the U.S. population.

Rail and Port Access More than 60 motor freight carriers serve the region, including Southern Ag Carriers, based in Albany, Ga., which recently announced it would build a new trucking terminal in Edenton. Southern Ag is a major shipper of agricultural products, serving food processors along the East Coast. “We do a lot of shipping for the peanut industry,” says Hugh Nall, president and chief operating officer of Southern Ag. “Locating in Edenton and

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P h o t o C o u r t e s y o f M a r k B u c k l er

North Carolina is a great fit for us and helps us serve our customers better.” The region’s well-connected highway and rail system has attracted major distribution centers, including Lowe’s Mid-Atlantic Distribution in Northampton County and Pepsi Bottling Ventures in Elizabeth City. Ann’s House of Nuts, one of America’s largest nut distributors, has a major production and distribution facility in Robersonville. The region is served by CSX and Norfolk Southern, along with several short-line railroads, including NC/VA Railroad, Chesapeake and Albemarle Railroad, and Carolina Coastal Railways. Amtrak also has nearby stops at Rocky Mount and in southern Virginia. Businesses in the region benefit from excellent access to major ports, including the Port of Virginia in Hampton Roads, which is the third-busiest port on the East Coast. Two North Carolina deep-water ports are also nearby in Wilmington and Morehead City. Supplier Relies on Network One of the region’s largest employers, PotashCorp-Aurora (PCS Phosphate) relies on these transportation assets to supply

Northeast North Carolina’s Transportation Network Major Highways: Interstate 95, U.S. Highways 17, 64, 158, 168, 264 Major Railroads: CSX, Norfolk Southern, Amtrak

T o dd B enne t t

Major Ports: Morehead City, Wilmington, Port of Virginia

From top: Currituck County Regional Airport is one of 11 general aviation airports; The region is home to major distribution centers, including Pepsi Bottling Ventures in Elizabeth City.


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Major Airports: Raleigh-Durham, Richmond, Norfolk; 11 general aviation airports

P h o t o C o u r t e s y o f J err y H u m en y o f B l a c k B o x I m a ge s i n S a s k at o o n

PotashCorp-Aurora is one of several regional companies that ship products from Morehead City’s port.

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spur to a major rail system that travels throughout U.S. markets. Since the mining operation is located on navigable tidewater, product barges, propelled by the PCS fleet of tugboats, move down the Pamlico River to the Morehead City port. Additionally, about 10 percent of PCS employees take the BayviewAurora Ferry to work each day. “Service and delivery are as important to our customers as the basic quality of the products we provide,” says Steve Beckel,



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general manager of PotashCorpAurora. “We’re known for shipping and delivering on time. North Carolina’s transportation assets help us to do just that.” Commercial air service is also easily accessible to local businesses through Raleigh-Durham International Airport, PittGreenville Airport, Richmond International Airport and Norfolk International Airport, and charter and corporate services are offered through 11 general aviation airports.

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fertilizer to agriculture, animal, nutrition and industrial chemical markets around the world. The company mines phosphate ore at its Beaufort County plant, adjacent to the Pamlico River, and is the largest user of the port at Morehead City, shipping approximately 1 million tons of products through the port. An average of 700 rail cars, 800 trucks and 30 barges of product leave PCS each month. The plant’s extensive rail complex is connected by a 32-mile

Taking Off Local airports carry on Northeast North Carolina’s aviation heritage

personal and business/corporate flights as well as small freight jets. Newest on the scene is the Halifax-Northampton Regional Airport, which opened in May 2009. The airport will accommodate projected growth of local residential developments as well as future business at the North Carolina Center for Automotive Research. – Karen Schwartzman

P h o t o C o u r t e s y o f M a r k B u c k l er

Northeast North Carolina’s deep roots in aviation continue to grow, and many local airports are carving out their own place in the region’s impressive flight history. Currituck County Regional Airport began as a World War II military installation, used as a practice field for aviators before combat. Today, the airport relies on an ageold adage to cement its importance. “Location, location, location,” airport manager James Elliott says. “We’re very close to the Outer Banks, so we allow people to get to their vacation a little sooner.” The airport has other impressive assets, including a new taxiway on the verge of completion and a private air park. The airport is also set to break ground on an educational facility for the College of the Albemarle soon, Elliott says. Dare County Regional Airport showcases its history in its nearby museum. “The theme is local aviators and local ties,” says airport director Robert Benson. The airport also dates back to the WWII era, when the facility was used as a naval base. Today, it operates year-round out of its Roanoke Island location. Perhaps most significant in the history of North Carolina aviation is the First Flight Airport, located in Kill Devil Hills where the Wright brothers made their first legendary flight. An airstrip was added to the park in 1963 to accommodate small, private airplanes. Constructed by the U.S. Navy during World War II as a Marine Corps air station, Northeast Regional Airport in Edenton hosted fighter squadrons during the Korean War and now serves as a general aviation facility. Plymouth Municipal Airport has recently undergone several phases of facility improvements, including a 5,500-foot runway that facilitates

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Touchstone Energy® n c nor t h e a s t e rn e c ono m i c d e v e l op m e n t . c o m



Halifax Regional Medical Center

Positive Prognosis Residents can easily find cutting-edge care Story by Kevin Litwin


esidents in Northeast North Carolina can find quality health care close to home, thanks to a strong network of community hospitals that offer dependable care, surgery options, rehabilitation services and outpatient facilities. Top medical centers range in size from the six-bed Bertie Memorial Hospital in Windsor to the University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina, which oversees eight hospitals and 15 clinical locations. “We are not-for-profit with $1.5 billion in annual net revenue, and we invest $80 million back into capital improvements each year,” says Dave McRae, CEO of University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina. “All eight


hospitals in our system have either been recently expanded or soon will be.” Hundreds of Physicians UHS has 10,000 employees, including 6,000 at its flagship Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville. There are also 300 physicians under the UHS umbrella. “Pitt County Memorial also partners with the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, with many of their medical students completing their residency at Memorial,” McRae says. “I’m happy to say that 70 percent of Brody School doctors who complete their residency remain in North Carolina for

N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

private practice.” Cutting-Edge Technology Besides the expansions at UHS hospitals, McRae says more than $100 million has been spent during the past five years on informational technology upgrades throughout the system. “We plan another $85.6 million investment in the next five years,” he says. “One example of our IT success occurred recently when a physician at The Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head performed a CT scan on a patient, then the image was instantly sent to a radiology specialist at Pitt County Memorial. The radiologist immediately analyzed it and sent recommendations to the

Expert HealthCare Access


Along with access to quality community health care, residents in North Carolina’s Northeast region benefit from living near expert health-care providers throughout the state, including: • Duke University Medical Center • East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine • Pitt County Memorial Hospital • Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters

Outer Banks physician within minutes. That is what 21st-century medicine is all about at UHS.” A Healthy Network Other top medical centers in the UHS system include Chowan Hospital in Edenton and RoanokeChowan Hospital in Ahoskie. Also easily accessible to residents is Albemarle Hospital in Elizabeth City, which also oversees Island Medical Center in the Outer Banks as well as Gates County Medical Center, plus an outpatient surgery facility at Regional Medical Center in Kitty Hawk. As for the city of Roanoke Rapids, its population is wellserved by Halifax Regional Medical Center, which treats

40,000 emergency room patients each year. And Washington County Hospital, a 49-bed critical access acute care facility, serves residents in Plymouth. “We have a staff of 280, of whom 200 have more than 10 years of experience caring for patients,” says Will Mahone, Halifax Regional Medical Center president. “Our hospital now offers services that include a Cardiac and Vascular Center, Digestive Health Center, Wound Center and a Joint Care Center where 2,000 joint replacements have been performed since opening in 2005.” Halifax Regional has 1,000 employees and sees patients primarily from Halifax and Northampton counties.

“We also have patients from Virginia who come over the border,” Mahone says. “Our advancements make it an especially exciting time to be in the medical field.” Other hospitals in the region include Beaufort Regional Health System in Washington, recently acquired by the UHS system, which operates a 142-bed acute care facility with more than 50 physicians skilled in more than 20 specialities, and Martin County Health Systems in Williamston. A new $1.76 million Veterans Affairs clinic is expected to open this fall in Elizabeth City. The clinic will ease the burden for thousands of veterans who currently travel to Hampton Roads, Va. for medical care.

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The region is home to many colleges and universities that train graduates for the fastest-growing industries, including health sciences.

Schools of Thought Local universities, colleges train students for North Carolina’s Northeast region’s top industries Story by Kevin Litwin Photography by Todd Bennett


mployers searching for educated, skilled graduates should look no further than North Carolina’s Northeast region. The area is home to several vocational schools, community colleges and four-year universities, and produces graduates trained to work in the region’s fastest-growing industries, including health sciences, green technology, computer technology, aerospace, biotechnology and pharmacy. The College of the Albemarle, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has built a reputation for getting its graduates

employed in a variety of industries. The Elizabeth City-based two-year college offers 30 programs of study, ranging from health sciences and business technology to technical programs such as machining, law-enforcement training and culinary arts. “One of our newest programs is an aviation sheet metal course that has welcomed 134 students since it began in November 2009,” says Lisa Johnson, College of the Albemarle director of marketing and communications. “In fact, that popularity has prompted us to work with Currituck County

commissioners who are providing us with land and an eventual 30,000-square-foot building to introduce an FAA-certified aviation systems technology curriculum. The regional aviation and technical training building is set to open in January 2013.” Besides its main campus, the college serves students in Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Pasquotank and Perquimans counties via satellite campuses in Edenton and Manteo, and a new campus coming to Currituck County. With 3,800 full-time students

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and 7,700 part-time students, “our college offers affordability and closeness to home,” Johnson says. Aviation, Pharmacy Programs Another nearby higher education institution, Elizabeth City State University, offers a Doctor of Pharmacy degree as a branch campus for the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy. “We are known for outstanding signature programs – pharmacy and aviation,” says Willie Gilchrist, ECSU chancellor. “As we continue our mission, the university, region and state will continue to elevate higher and emerge stronger in both fields.” An Array of Higher Ed Options Northeast North Carolina is also home to several Christian

universities, including Chowan University and Mid-Atlantic Christian University. Chowan University has 63 academic programs, and Mid-Atlantic Christian University, which is known for being military-friendly, offers degrees for students interested in ministry as well as scholarships for military students and veterans. The region also boasts a strong community college network that includes Beaufort County Community College, Halifax Community College, College of the Albemarle, Roanoke-Chowan Community College and Martin Community College, which is known for its two-year equine training program. “Students in Northeast North Carolina have a lot of great academic options,” College of the Ablemarle’s Johnson says.

Workforce Training at North Carolina State University The North Carolina State Industrial Extension Program offers workforce training and resources for industries, including: Process Improvement: Lean manufacturing, health care and office management, systematic problem solving, industrial engineering, new product development Standards and Compliance Assistance: ISO standards, OSHA


training, environmental health and safety compliance training Business Excellence, Benchmarking, Growth and Innovation: Business assessments, customized e-learning solutions, export support Links to University Expertise: Technology incubator, expertise in engineering, natural resources, food science, etc.

N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

Elizabeth City State University is a branch campus for the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

Quality • Service • On-Time Delivery This is our unwavering commitment to you; a simple, yet effective plan that equals a successful project every time.

P.O. Box 29 • 518-C Coke Ave. • Edenton, NC 27932 (252) 482-7925 T • (252) 482-2990 F Half mile from U.S. Route 17 One-hour drive to Port of Virginia/Hampton Roads Site includes 70-acre state-owned Marine Industrial Park on Perquimans River Qualifying projects may be eligible for North Carolina and local incentives 200+ acres still available

Marine Industrial Park

Perquimans County Commerce Centre A student works on repairing an airplane in the College of the Albemarle’s Aircraft Maintenance Technology program.

Contact: Dave Goss • 252-312-5314

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Nags Head is one of several communities along the Outer Banks that attract visitors with its relaxed waterfront lifestyle.


N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e


Slow Pace, Beautiful Place Outdoor fun, gorgeous beaches and relaxed atmosphere entice tourists, newcomers

Story by Jessica Walker


T o dd B enne t t

ttracting a wide range of people with varying interests – both residents and tourists, young families as well as retirees – Northeast North Carolina’s appeal continues to grow. According to Anita Johnson, vice president of project development for North Carolina’s Northeast Commission, it’s because of the lifestyle the region offers. “Because we don’t have a dense population, we get to avoid traffic jams, so we have less stress in our daily routine,” she says. “Living in a small town, you see people over and over again, which enhances the sense of community and creates personal connections.”

Room to Live and Play Affordable, beautiful homes, located on the water or on one of

the many golf courses in the area, lure newcomers. The region’s proximity to I-95 makes it a popular stop for snowbirds and families headed to Florida, and many who visit the area end up moving into one of its residential communities, including Albemarle Plantation, Scotch Hall Preserve, The Pines at Elizabeth City and Kilmarlic Golf Club. “They are tucked away, so you don’t always notice them from the highways,” says Charlotte Underwood, tourism director for the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and chair of Northeast Tourism (NET). “People come from all over to live in our neighborhoods.” In addition to gorgeous views along rivers, sounds and the Atlantic Ocean, the water provides

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T o dd B enne t t

The Outer Banks are best known for their world-class beaches (top) and quaint islands like Ocracoke (bottom).


N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

the opportunity for fun activities that can’t be enjoyed just anywhere. “You can jet ski, canoe, kayak, sail, fish or dive,” Underwood says. “Whether you prefer freshwater or saltwater, we have plenty of things to do on the water.” The Outer Banks With the water comes beaches and islands, both of which the Outer Banks are famous for. One of its most popular attractions is Ocracoke Island, known as the Pearl of the Outer Banks. “People on Ocracoke Island are very relaxed, and when you go there for a vacation, you become relaxed also,” Johnson says. “It’s not crowded, and it’s a little less populated. You don’t see skyscrapers or big hotels; it’s just natural landscaping and beautiful scenery.” Some of the best board surfing, fishing and beachcombing on the East Coast can be found along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Known for its historic fishing villages and iconic lighthouses, the shore along the barrier island was recently recognized as one of the nation’s top 10 beaches by Dr. Beach. Roanoke Island is also a popular vacation spot on the Outer Banks and close to several cultural attractions. Visitors can see one of the country’s longest-running outdoor dramas, The Lost Colony, at the Waterside Theatre, and explore the Elizabethan Gardens, which stand as living memorials to Roanoke’s lost colonists. Candlelight walking tours through historic Manteo are also offered, as well as shopping and dining in a quaint downtown filled with museums and art galleries. Nice Doing Business Here As tourism grows, so do businesses. From bed and breakfasts to adventure companies, entrepreneurs in

the region cater to tourists. HQ Kites & Designs USA, a wholesale distributor of outdoor recreational equipment, toys and garden décor, relocated to Currituck County from Chesapeake, Va., and has found success. “Our company had a record year for sales and profits in 2010,” says Chris Shultz, Vice President of HQ Kites & Designs USA. “We are seeing more interest in outdoor recreation, including kiteboarding, snowkiting and kite landboarding.” Another bonus to setting up shop the region? Attracting employees doesn’t exactly prove difficult. “There are tremendous natural and wildlife resources here to enjoy: boating, fishing, hunting, surfing, kiting,” Shultz says. “We find the area to be attractive to young professionals and those who are looking to escape from the rat race.”

visit our

advertisers Albemarle Economic Development Commission AR Chesson Construction Company Inc. Bertie County Peanuts Chowan County Tourism Development Authority College of the Albemarle Currituck County Economic Development ElectriCities of North Carolina Inc. Halifax County Economic Development Commission Hampton Inn Hertford County Economic Development Commission John E. Bassett Inc. Lilley International Inc. Martin Community College Martin County Economic Development Corporation Martin County Transit North Carolina Center for Automotive Research North Carolina’s Northeast Commission Northampton Economic Development Commission Northeastern Workforce Development Board Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Perquimans County Economic Development

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Roanoke Electric Cooperative Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District Tyrrell County Tourism Authority University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina Virginia Port Authority Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park Washington Tourism Development Authority


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economic profile Population (2010) North Carolina’s Northeast Region: 366,837 Beaufort County: 47,759 Bertie County: 21,282 Camden County: 9,980 Chowan County: 14,793 Currituck County: 23,547 Dare County: 33,920 Gates County: 12,197 Halifax County: 54,691 Hertford County: 24,669 Hyde County: 5,810 Martin County: 24,505 Northampton County: 22,099 Pasquotank County: 40,661 Perquimans County: 13,453 Tyrrell County: 4,407 Washington County: 13,228

Major Population Centers (2009)

Business Climate in North Carolina’s Northeast North Carolina’s Northeast Region encompasses 16 counties, including the Outer Banks region, and has a combined labor force of 168,786. Top industry sectors in the region include manufacturing, aviation and aerospace, marine trades, tourism and growing sectors in biotechnology, automotive research and development, and alternative energy. Most counties qualify for maximum state incentives. For more information, contact Ray White, vice president of marketing for North Carolina’s Northeast Commission, at

Change in regional population from 2000:


Top Employers

Currituck County Airport Dare County Regional Airport First Flight Airport Halifax County Airport Martin County Airport Northeastern Regional Airport Ocracoke Island Airport Pine Island Airport Plymouth Municipal Airport Tri-County Airport Warren Field Airport

Perdue Products Incorporated PCS Phosphate Company Inc. Flanders Airpure NC Division Reser’s Fine Foods

Ann’s House of Nuts Lowe’s Home Centers Inc.

Per Capita Income (2009) Region: $31,028

Meherrin Agriculture and Chemical Company U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. Coast Guard) Domtar Paper Company

What’s Online 

For more in-depth demographic, statistical and community information on North Carolina’s Northeast region, go to and click on Demographics.


I-95, U.S. highways 17, 64, 158, 168 and 264


Nucor Steel Hertford

Elizabeth City, 20,437 Roanoke Rapids, 16,190 Washington, 10,176 Kill Devil Hills, 6,826


Rail CSX, Norfolk Southern, Chesapeake & Albemarle Railroad, NC/VA Railroad, Carolina Coastal Railways

Nearby ports Port of Virginia, Port of Wilmington, Port of Morehead City Sources; Employment Security Commission of North Carolina, Labor Market Information Division



Public Transportation Services Call to schedule rides. Curb-to-curb service. HOURS Of SeRvICe: 6:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Monday-Friday

(252) 789-4390 TDD (800) 735-2962


Subsidized Training Available

For more information and availability, please call: Dave Whitmer, MBA ACT Job Profiler Business Services Representative (252) 426-5753, Ext. 231 Equal Opportunity Employer/Program. Auxiliary aids and services available upon request to individuals with disabilities.

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Through the Lens

Get the Story Behind the Photo Now that you’ve experienced North Carolina’s Northeast region through our photos, see it through the eyes of our photographers. Visit to view our exclusive photographers’ blog documenting what all went in to capturing those perfect moments.

From Our Photo Blog: North Carolina’s Northeast Their dirty hands inspect the gems dug out of the ground as the machine moves them by, separating each one by its size. Grading happens quick. And it better. There are crates upon crates to be looked over. And, as the cliche goes, there are only so many hours in the day. That’s the job of a potato researcher at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth, N.C. You hear about cut, clarity and color when it comes to diamonds. But when it comes to potatoes, the group from North Carolina State University is judging each batch on weight, quality and size. They’re looking for the next great variety of potato. And they just might have found it, buried in a field in Plymouth, N.C.

Posted by Todd Bennett

More Online 

See more favorite photos and read the stories behind the shots at

Elizabeth City 64

Roanoke Rapids

N or t h C a ro l in a ’ s N or t h e a s t R e gion a l E c ono m i c D e v e l op m e n t G u i d e

Ad Index

29 AR Chesson Construction Company Inc.

7 Albemarle Economic Development Commission

38 Bertie County Peanuts

61 Chowan County Tourism Development Authority

54 College of the Albemarle

21 Currituck County Economic Development 2 ElectriCities of North Carolina Inc.

57 John E Bassett Inc.

49 Lilley International Inc.

14 Martin Community College

37 Martin County Economic Development Corporation

63 Martin County Transit

4 North Carolina Center for Automotive Research C2 North Carolina’s Northeast Commission

1 Northampton Economic Development Commission

63 Northeastern Workforce Development Board

10 Halifax County Economic Development Commission

C3 Hampton Inn

42 Hertford County Economic Development Commission

25 Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Ad Index (cont.)

57 Perquimans County Economic Development

51 Roanoke Electric Cooperative

45 Roanoke Rapids Sanitary District

8 Tyrrell County Tourism Authority C4 University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina

12 Virginia Port Authority

32 Wanchese Seafood Industrial Park

38 Washington Tourism Development Authority

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North Carolina's Northeast Region Economic Development Guide 2011  

North Carolina's 16-county Northeast Region, which encompasses the Outer Banks, is home to a combined labor force of nearly 170,000. Top ind...