I am going to walk out on a ledge and say something that I know to be true and that many people may find unbelievable. Here we go. Are you ready? “Anyone in Wayne County who wants to work can work.”
When you get up and look around, plenty of places are hiring. I even have two openings in the newsroom: one for a sportswriter and the other a photographer.
We are experiencing an economic renaissance in Wayne County. Sure, some jobs don’t pay as well as those that were lost. But jobs they are, and they’re with companies looking desperately to fill the vacancies with people who want to go to work.
You know, it wasn’t always positive. Hiring in eastern North Carolina slowed so much that some people stopped looking for work. Now, those people are no longer counted among the unemployed, which is nuts. Such fudging of numbers and statistics should give everyone pause when considering the veracity of any reports government generates.
A good example of this is the powers who be in the N.C. Department of Commerce deciding over the past year that Wayne is a Tier 1 county, which means it is one of the state’s 40 most economically distressed counties. The next set of 40 is considered Tier 2, a shade better than Tier 1. Tier 3 counties, the final 20 of the 100 North Carolina counties, are the economically strongest in the state.
The state’s criteria for where a county falls in the tier system includes four points: the county’s average unemployment rate, median household income, the percentage of growth in population and adjusted property tax base per number of people.
So, in Wayne County fewer jobs have meant less household income, which keeps people from wanting to live in the county; and with fewer people in the county, the amount of taxes collected is less. The problem with the folks in Raleigh cyphering the effects is that they don’t know Wayne County. They are working from assumptions and numbers that other government agencies have generated.
Like many eastern North Carolina counties, Wayne has been walloped financially: first by the North American Free Trade Agreement, which stripped the Carolina counties of their textile industries, then the assault on tobacco and finally the Great Recession of 2008. The effect of these, which happened over a less than 20-year span, would have devastated most areas of the country to the point that they could not recover. But not eastern North Carolina (a look at a tier map shows a giant swath of poor counties running through eastern N.C.). In those counties, development and growth still occur. In Wayne County, we see public investment in infrastructure, private investment in redevelopment — like the $11 million project coming to downtown Goldsboro — and the opening of large retailers — Harbor Freight, Hobby Lobby — and restaurants along the horizon.
As improvements are made, even more jobs are created, which means more people living in Wayne are paying taxes with higher household incomes. If Wayne County is a Tier 1 county now, it won’t be that way for long. And everyone in Wayne must take an active role in lifting the county to a high level of success.
How can one or two people help raise a county? Simple. It starts at home.
Buying local creates more local wealth and jobs with more money being reinvested in the local area. According to the American Independent Business Alliance, about 48 cents of every dollar spent shopping locally remains local. Even when eating out, even at a franchise or national chain restaurant, about 34 to 65 cents of every dollar stays at home. It certainly pays to spend locally.
Another way a small handful of people can make a difference is to encourage local governments to do the same: buy local. Many times, when councils, boards, and commissions approve spending projects, the work is given to companies from outside of the area. This is usually because of the antiquated concept of awarding the lowest bidder the work. But let’s apply the amounts just mentioned about reinvested dollars. If about 48 cents of every dollar spent on a public project or purchase stays in Wayne County when using local contractors and suppliers, doesn’t it make the locals the lowest bidders even if they are a few bucks higher? Of course, it does. Money is staying in Wayne County.
Wayne County is well-positioned for an excellent future. One of the best signs of the healthy days ahead is that out-of-work people in Wayne County can find jobs; they just have to want to.