Onslow leaders bring home ideas to boost investment in community

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Incentives to attract new business and workforce development were among the topics of interest for Onslow County officials returning from a recent summit focused on community revitalization.

Three members of the Onslow County Board of Commissioners — Chairman Jack Bright and Commissioners Tim Foster and Paul Buchanan — along with Interim County Manager Sharon Russell and Assistant County Manager Ben Warren attended last week’s North Carolina Opportunity Now Summit hosted by the White House in Charlotte.

The event included remarks from President Donald Trump but county leaders said that was only part of the day-long summit, which included panel discussions and information of benefit to communities and ways to invest in low-income or distressed areas known as “opportunity zones.”

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Foster said Onslow County has two opportunity zones, one within the county jurisdiction and another within the City of Jacksonville.

“With two identified opportunity zones there are incentives that can be used to help attract business,” Foster said.

The Opportunity Now event included speakers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza, and Scott Turner, executive director of White House Opportunity & Revitalization Council.

Foster said there were also panel discussions among various stakeholders and experts and two topics were of particular interest to him.

“A couple of things stood out to me,” Foster said. “One panel of workforce development experts talked about helping people transitioning out of the criminal justice system find jobs and the opportunity to help reduce recidivism.”

Foster said the importance of career and technical education was another topic to come up and was also mentioned by Trump in his comments.

Foster said with the opening of the new regional skills center and programs available through Onslow County Schools and Coastal Carolina Community College, Onslow County has moved in a positive direction on this front and he wants to see that continue.

With the information gained from the summit, the county leaders say they have ideas and resources to consider for the benefit of Onslow County.

“It provided information we can pursue and do more research on to help find opportunities to benefit the citizens of Onslow County,” Foster said.

Bright said such events are a valuable resource and can provide information on services and grant opportunities they may not be aware of.

“We really found it interesting and informative,” Bright said.

Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at 910-382-2557 or Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com.