“Aerospace, advanced manufacturing, and advanced materials have been a focus for all the economic development community, and I think [Spirit AeroSystems] is the culmination,” said ECU’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Economic Development, Ted Morris. “You are seeing the many players coming together and the result is you get these types of companies. I think it’s also another great example of the reputation that continues to grow for North Carolina.”
The panel also addressed the impact military expansion will have in the region. Eastern North Carolina is home to seven US Military bases and more than 110,000 active military personnel.
Other industries that the state and region are seeing growth in is biotechnology, service industries, and niche applications like advanced biomedical textiles.
Key to economic development in the region is the continued education and training of the citizenry who make up the work force. The panelists universally agreed on the importance of improving education in the region, especially at the primary and secondary level.
“The single biggest problem we’ve confronted at Pitt Memorial and at University Health Systems in 35 years has been the education of the work force,” said McRea. “People will drive even if the roads aren’t right, but we have to get them the education.”
100 years ago this month Governor Thomas Jarvis broke ground at the current site of Jarvis Hall. From left: Carol Mabe, Smedes York, Mayor Pat Dunn, Marguerite Perry, Chancellor Steven Ballard, Dr. James Bearden, Rep. Edith Warren, Former Chancellor Richard Eakin, Rep. Marian McLawhorn, Dr. John Tucker.
Panelist Valeria Lee, president of The Golden LEAF Foundation, and a formal school counselor, believes that a shift in the mindset of the business community and society, as a whole, is needed to improve education.
“We know how to teach children. We know how to educate them. We have not always had the will to do so and put the resources in place,” she said. “We have to give a clearer message of expectations to our school systems and to our communities about what we want our young people to be prepared to do.”
If enthusiasm and commitment were enough to buoy an economy, eastern North Carolina would be well clear of the economic turmoil currently embroiling much of the nation. And while it sadly is not, public events like the Centennial Celebration Economic Forum is indicative of the level of leadership that ECU and its regional business partners are offering to help keep this region of the state growing and thriving in difficult times.
The Centennial Celebration Economic Forum was followed by a special commemoration of the original groundbreaking of campus by Governor Thomas Jarvis in July 1908.