Lenoir County Economic Director Mark Pope has been hired as president of the Wayne County Development Alliance effective Sept. 4.

The hiring was finalized Wednesday by Wayne County Manager Craig Honeycutt.

The office had been vacant since May following the resignation of alliance President Crystal Gettys.

Tiffany Creech, Wayne County Development Alliance existing industry manager, has been serving as interim president.

Pope was hired by Honeycutt with support of Wayne County commissioners and the Wayne County Development Alliance executive board.

His salary will be $108,500.

There were 43 applicants for the job, and four candidates were interviewed.

The hiring is a great win for the county, Honeycutt said.

"We are thrilled to have someone of Mark's background and abilities come to lead our economic development efforts in Wayne County," Honeycutt said. "He has a wonderful, proven track record in eastern North Carolina, and is one of the most respected economic development directors in the state."

A Lenoir County native and East Carolina University graduate, Pope has served as the economic director in his home county since 2005. He currently serves as the president of the North Carolina Economic Directors Association.

Prior to 2005, Pope spent more than 20 years in the banking industry.

Pope will make a strong team member for the county, said Mount Olive Mayor Joe Scott, Wayne County Development Alliance chairman.

"We had great candidates to choose from and could not have gone wrong on any candidate, but Mark has ties to our county and had worked on projects with us, bringing much experience," Scott said. "I look forward to working with Mark and the innovative ideas he has for us."

The alliance is moving in a new direction, and Scott said that Pope is the person for the job.

The county is not just looking for industrial development, but also agriculture and commercial development, too, he said.

In commercial development, the alliance is looking to support the county's smaller towns to get retail business as well as industry, Scott said.

"This has not been done in the economic development description before," he said. "For example, Mount Olive just opened a new Hardee's with an employment of 59 new jobs. We have some industries that don't have that many employees.

"We are looking at expanding our industrial parks. A new one on Patetown Road, the Goldsboro Industrial Campus, is in its infancy and is starting to take shape. We have many possibilities that Mark can direct us in along with the support from the county, we can grow Wayne County."