Washington, DC - The National Association of Counties (NACo) selected Halifax County, NC as one of 35 counties nationwide for a study of county involvement and challenges and solutions in economic development across 3,069 counties. Counties are an essential component of the support system for economic development, as detailed by the NACo report released today, Strong Economies, Resilient Counties: The Role of Counties in Economic Development. The 35 case studies provide a more in-depth view of county challenges and solutions in economic development.
For the Halifax County Case Study, please click the following link: http://www.uscounties.org/strong-economies/profiles/HalifaxNC.pdf
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Web Interactive Maps with 35 Case Studies - http://www.uscounties.org/strong-economies/ Double click on any of the featured counties for a customized case study
The study’s national findings include:
The National Association of Counties (NACo) developed this research in partnership with the Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. The study draws on the results of a NACo survey of the 3,069 counties conducted between September and October 2013 and 35 case studies of counties or regional economic development organizations with county government involvement.
The addition of Geenex Solar, along with its Solar Center of Excellence, to Halifax County’s industry list is promising new jobs and education for interested residents. Company CEO 31-year-old Georg Veit said Geenex is in the process of converting the former Roanoke Rapids Airport into a 252-acre solar farm with an education and training facility called the Solar Center of Excellence.
Veit said the solar power generation site will utilize one of the most reliable systems in the industry and sell the energy it produces to Dominion Power, but he sees this site being so much more than just for power generation.
He said he feels in the embodiment of the former airport site there was a time when it was vital to the area, and he looks forward to that being the case again.
He said he looks forward to a time when it becomes a vital part of community life, and brings visitors from across the nation.
“It’s a many fold type of center,” he said. “We want it to bring people there. We want it to be part of the community, a place to do something, maybe wander around and meet people and talk about what’s going on in the world.” He said the Solar Center will have a life of its own and it will be the driver for future development in Halifax County and beyond.
Sustainable curriculums will be developed there and it will be a place where trainees will get hands-on experience in a safe environment. He said this will be accomplished through partnerships with local schools, the community college and state universities.
From the operations base at the Center, he said people will be able to monitor solar facilities in places across the country. Veit said in order for that to happen, solar energy has to make sense to people, and they need to understand why these shifts are happening.
He said that’s why the Center of Excellence will also house a place for visitors to see displays on how solar energy works. He said his company plans to expand and will develop other partnerships throughout the United States, but the Halifax County site will be at the core of Geenex operations.
“This will be the heart,” he said, adding his company has intentions of being a quality neighbor in the community.
Active retail space for active lives is coming to the Roanoke Valley with the rebranding and purchase of the former Farm Fresh building at Premier Station, which has led to the lease of a large portion of the complex to Dunham’s Sports.
Nick Brown, president and broker in charge of NDB Commercial Real Estate in Raleigh, said he brokered the deal on the premise of creating a “Sports Plaza at Premier Station.”
Brown said 56,388 feet of main space will be used by Dunham’s Sports — the largest sporting goods chain in the midwest.
The company was founded in 1937 in Waterford, Mich., and features a full line of sporting goods and a variety of active and casual sports apparel and footwear in 16 states and 170 stores.
“Along with Dunham’s Sports, we are trying to build a theme that will host active shoppers and hopefully attract active tenants,” Brown said. “These types of tenants could include everything from gyms, chiropractors, nail salons, hair salons, martial arts and an entire range of companies trying to attract active customers.”
Brown said long believed this kind of project would be successful in the Roanoke Valley.
Demographics for the region, according to Brown, show within five miles of Premier Station there are more than 27,000 people with an average income of more than $48,000.
Further, he said, Premiere Landing boasts retail sales of more than $6 million yearly. The area pulls from many regions in all directions from northern Virginia down the Eastern Seaboard.
Add the traffic on Interstate 95 and Highway 158, and Brown said there is good reason to believe this venture will succeed.
“I’ve always personally liked Roanoke Rapids,” he said, adding he has been working on this project for many years. “I think it will do very well there.”
Raleigh firm Sanderson Construction Inc. will act as contractor.
Steve Fitzpatrick, of Sanderson, said the company is already working.
“We’re already on the preliminary stuff,” he said, adding he is talking with the building department this week.
Fitzpatrick said he will employ mostly local people — between 40 and 50. “We have a crew of contractors representing the best in the Roanoke Valley,” he said. “It’s just a matter of pulling the trigger.”
Brown said Halifax County Economic Development director Cathy Scott and Roanoke Valley Chamber President/CEO Allen Purser were beneficial in putting this venture together.
Brown said anyone interested in the project should call Nick or Chris Brown at 919-845-5155. He said general inquiries can hit “0” for any questions.
“We can offer anywhere from 1,400 square feet on the small end to 9,800 square feet on the large end and any range in between,” Brown said. “We also have two outparcels for sale or lease.” Brown expects Dunham’s to take possession of the building in June and have the store open by mid-August.
He said the company asked to wait until they take possession before they reveal the number of jobs created and other information. According to Brown, the retail space’s ownership partners are based in China, with a managing member based in Chapel Hill.
“Our firm, NDB Commercial Real Estate, handles all their real estate from acquisitions to leasing to development to management to disposition,” Brown said.
Leaders in local agriculture, communications, service, government, medicine, energy, manufacturing and education gathered for lunch at the Hilton Garden Inn Wednesday to welcome North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker to the Roanoke Valley, and hear her take on how they fit into state plans for growth.
"You are the people in this county who get things done," said Halifax County Commissioner Chairman James Pierce in his welcoming statements.
Pierce explained Decker was on a tour of Halifax County, looking at the county's assets and challenges.
Decker called it a windshield tour, adding she learned a lot about the county's economic development challenges, tourism and other assets.
"I have a great empathy for your area as you have gone though a tremendous amount of change," she said.
Decker said there is good news — she believes Halifax County has a competitive edge over other areas.
She said the overall cooperative attitudes and partnerships between the county, the towns and businesses in Halifax County is outstanding.
"You are very wellpositioned, I'm impressed," she said. "You know what your assets are. There's a great partnership between the county and towns. Everyone is working together. I see a real community vision. That's rare."
She said many rural areas stopped investing in their futures with the economic decline.
She complimented Halifax County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Cathy Scott and the county.
"You have tremendous assets," she said.
"Your investments in infrastructure has positioned you for growth. Even with the decline, you are positioned for growth."
Decker said the state wants to help by moving faster and being more fl exible on development plans, and by helping already established small businesses through deregulation.
"The best investment in the state is businesses already located in North Carolina," she said. "We need to do things to get out of the way of small business development."
She said the state is working to transform The Rural Center and other programs to provide a one-stop option for funding, which will improve economic development services.
Decker said she would like to see increased exports, including agriculture.
"We have enough land we can feed the hungry world," she said.
"And the Secretary of Agriculture wants to do that."
After the luncheon, Pierce said he was very impressed with Decker.
"She quickly absorbed a lot about where we are," he said.
"I believe something good will come out of the restructuring. It will be easier to seek funding. I'm hopeful this will help us get to where we want to be."
Representing the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, Earl Evans said his people are interested in continuing to engage in partnerships with the county and other entities to "collectively enhance the economy of Halifax County."
"Hopefully (Decker) will continue the commitment to include the Haliwa- Saponi tribe's economy as part of the efforts of the administration," he said.
Halifax Regional CEO/President Will Mahone said, "I thought it was important for her to see the unique needs of a rural community and how it compares to urban centers that have more resources."