GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Growing and building the economy and job base in Greenville was discussed during a special event on Wednesday.
Greenville Council members P.J. Connelly and McLean Godley, along with Greenville Mayor Allen Thomas, called for the special meeting where a variety of topics were discussed, from keeping college graduates local, to attracting new businesses.
Greenville’s Economic Development Manager Roger Johnson highlighted three main areas that were essential to growing the economy: innovation and entrepreneurship, recruiting, retaining and expanding businesses, and having private capital investment.
City leaders noted the skilled workforce is already present with thousands graduating each year from ECU and PCC.
However, without businesses here, those graduates look elsewhere for jobs. Leaders said they’re still working on getting Highway 264 designated as an interstate, as Greenville is the largest city in North Carolina without one.
Tom Wisemiller with the economic development office said they already know how many people drive to Greenville for work, and how big an impact the healthcare industry plays. Now they are trying to figure out the unknowns.
“What we don’t understand is how many people are coming to the East and shopping here in town, and so we’ve undertaken a retail study to look at all that,” he said.
Small business grants are also helping to build the economy in the city. So far, 32 businesses have gotten grants, 25 of which are still operating. In total, 227 part time jobs, and 102 full time jobs, have been created through small businesses.
When talking about larger companies, thousands of jobs have been added in Greenville alone over the last few years, with Patheon leading the pack. On top of that, $385 million is scheduled to be invested in Uptown between 2016 and 2019.
When looking at retail sales, shoppers spent $9.3 million more in February 2016 than in February 2015. That increase matches increases in median household income levels, which have risen 14 percent between 2009 and 2014.
Councilman Conley said the only way to expand the economy further is to work together.
City leaders agree that adding high value office companies in Greenville is essential for growth.