Votes are in from brainstorming session

By Chrysta Carroll -

ELIZABETHTOWN — A recent brainstorming session by stakeholders in Bladen County’s economic development yielded dozens of suggestions, ranging from five tax-free years for new businesses to beefing up tourism in order to attract industry.

After the brainstorming session, each attendee ranked his or her priorities, and Chuck Heustess, executive director for Bladen County Economic Development and organizer of the recent brainstorming session, tabulated the results.

“Now keep in mind that many of the ideas are generic and have to be fleshed out,” he said before giving a rundown of the results.

Not surprisingly, soft skills training came out in the top tier of interests. The result isn’t unexpected because, during the meeting, all business owners present agreed that lack of employees’ basic working skills was a problem for them, and cited a study showing that a staggering 70 percent of job applicants could not pass a drug test, criminal background check and a driving test.

A small business incubator — something that is currently in the works with Bladen’s Bloomin’ — also emerged in the top tier, reinforcing that people like the idea and are interested in expanding it.

A third idea that garnered support was a marketing-media specialist-promotions coordinator who would work with various municipalities and business groups to promote amenities in Bladen County.

“It’s hard to be specific about what that entails,” said Heustess. “We’ll just have to get groups together and see how to write a job description and if there’s a revenue stream to pay for it.”

Secondary interests included a lodging tax, a local shopping initiative, a promotional video, revitalizing run-down properties, vocational and technical training, industrial spec space, and accountability in education.

“There were a lot of good ideas, and if people are interested in taking them further, they’re welcome to provide the muscle and bones,” Heustess said.

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.

By Chrysta Carroll

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