If you are looking to plant roots in a place with an economy on-the-move, you’re in the right location. Recent findings on Onslow County showed unemployment rates are down, employment wages are up, and annual retail sales are continuing to increase.

The 2017 dashboard report reveals numbers moving in all the right directions, according to data from Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development (JOED). Sheila Pierce Knight, executive director, says this area has key benefits that help drive such results — including numerous stakeholders working on the common goal of economic health.

“Economic development takes on many faces, and we are fortunate in Jacksonville and Onslow County to be large enough, and savvy enough, to have different organizations that focus on different aspects of it,” she said.

JOED is co-located in the commerce center along with the Jacksonville-Onslow Chamber of Commerce, Jacksonville-Onslow Sports Commission, and Onslow County Tourism.

Downtown redevelopment, however, resides mostly under the umbrella of the city of Jacksonville, she added.

While the chamber focuses more on small business development, the economic development arm specializes in recruitment and retention of key industries. Knight says those are typically manufacturing-based and call centers, like Convergys. She explained the latter is more appealing for a community with a military population.

“We’re focused more on primary jobs that are somewhat manufacturing or distribution-based because they typically spur other jobs, they spur the service industry jobs,” Knight said.

JOED often gets leads for prospective businesses that the county may be a good fit for. Overall, Knight says, you either have the criteria they are looking for or you don’t.

And Onslow County is fortunate to have several assets in place that are attractive. Access to ports and available product sites and buildings are among them.

“Most companies these days when they make a decision to relocate or expand, they kind of want to do it sooner than later. They don’t want to start with a piece of dirt, quite frankly, that doesn’t have any of its infrastructure and has not yet had its permits done, that has not yet had a phase one environmental study on it yet, that’s not had any of the risk taken out of it,” she explained.

JOED is on year four of a five-year strategic plan, which has shown positive results from the output of the programs. Knight says the outlook for the future of business in the county is “very good,” thanks in part to actions taken by North Carolina’s legislature.

“Obviously, the legislative environment is very important. Over the past few years, the state of North Carolina has made a concerted effort to realize that they needed to be more competitive when it came to our taxing structure, so the current legislature has done a lot with tax reform. They’ve reduced the corporate tax income tax rate to the point where we are the lowest in the country for all the states that have income taxes. That is important for consideration of these companies,” she outlined.

Knight added an additional priority for JOED is to attract companies that produce career opportunities for those local service members preparing to exit the military.

“We would like to continue to provide more jobs so that we can keep transitioning military here. They made good citizens, and so it’s important we try to continue to recruit in and help our existing industry grow here,” she said.

Information on Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development can be found at http://www.joednc.com.