Experts speak at economic forecast meeting in New Bern

NEW BERN, NC (WITN) Hundreds gathered in New Bern on Wednesday afternoon to hear from experts on national and statewide economic performance and how it could impact their area.

Matthew Martin, a top economist from The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, discussed state and nationwide economic performance.

Martin highlighted trends throughout the country that economic developers say could make their way to Craven County.

"The situation here in Craven County is pretty strong. The economy is strong. We continue to have a diverse economy, and we're seeing growth from all different sectors," said Timothy Downs, the former Economic Development Director for Craven County.

Positive trends include the significant growth in manufacturing, healthcare and retail the county has experienced over the years. But workforce remains a struggle.

"We've got employers here locally that are trying very hard to fill positions, and it's a very difficult task," Downs added.

Others say cities like New Bern, heavily impacted by Hurricane Florence, have felt setbacks in their progress.

"I haven't talked to one business in this market that wasn't impacted by Hurricane Florence," said Kevin Roberts, the New Bern Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.

But Roberts adds they remain resilient in their growth and development efforts.

"Downtown has flourished for 30-plus years, and that's been great. And what we want to see now is that good grow out from there."

And while Craven County faces obstacles like any county, Downs says the future remains bright for its residents and businesses.

"I fully expect the community to grow, continue to see new things, new opportunities that we probably haven't even expect."

Among the areas of focus for local developers will be the industrial park in New Bern, which has 200 acres of available land. As well as US-70 and 17 corridors.