From the Executive Director...

The following remarks were presented on August 7, 2007 to the Wake Up Lenoir Breakfast meeting by Pride' of Kinston, Inc.'s Executive Director, Adrian King...

My first job directly related to economic development was in 1969 when I was appointed assistant to the director for public affairs for the State agency called, at the time, the North Carolina Department of Conservation & Development.

I got the job because I worked in Bob Scott’s gubernatorial campaign of 1968…and also because I had covered C&D and its several divisions for the News and Observer two years prior.

The first Scott Administration initiative in the old Commerce and Industry Division was a program we called the Governors Award Program. In this statewide initiative, C&D and the Governor recognized communities which took pains to prepare themselves to receive new industry.

A check list of items measured by C&D staff in order to make the community awards were things such as:

(1) Water and sewer availability;
(2) Power and transportation availability;
(3) Available land, i.e. industrial parks were big in those days; Availability of local financing;
(4) Availability of labor, and training opportunities for labor; tax rates; local incentive packages;
(5) Also on that list were environmental considerations:
(a) A clean and attractive downtown;
(b) Arts and recreation availability—quality of life issues;
(c) Schools/educational quality;
(d) Community harmony.

Towns and counties all over North Carolina, especially smaller communities, took this competition very seriously. The campaign and competition spurred painting, scraping, landscaping, renovations all over the State.

When a town was judged a Governors Award town, the Governor himself participate in presenting the Governor’s Award. You can still see some of those fading signs at city and town limits all over the State, advertising themselves as Governors Award communities. I brought some of those learnings 30 some years ago to my present job.

In the alignment of local roles today in our town, the Pride of Kinston is a prime mover promoting downtown real estate, cleanliness, beauty, handsome streets and visually appealing landscapes.

But our job today is not simply to put a shine on things. We use our bully pulpit role, some elbow grease, and some hard cash to make Kinston a desirable place for our residents, our visitors, our businesses and their investors.

In doing so, Pride recognizes that economic development is as much an art as it is a science…Hard financial calculations are infused with feelings, with emotion, with hope, with the kind of excitement that only risk taking can generate. But the connection between what is beauty to the eye, a warm heart, and money in the bank is as strong as a steel beam. In a sense, I have just summed up Prides’ mission to forge and celebrate private and public partnerships to revitalize downtown Kinston’s economy.

We have just completed a survey among Kinston investors to measure money being spent in our downtown over the past 25 months (July 2005 to July 2007). When added up, it amounts to $3 million which has been or is being spent on downtown revitalization over these two years. And every penny has come from local people, local business, local investors, local sources.

Investors report an expenditure profile as follows:

• $2,516,000 in purchasing and renovating buildings.
• Some of those businesses have spent or are spending at least another $303,000 on inventory for their businesses;
• And Pride itself has spent $177, 626.00 in the 25 months in downtown revitalization work.
• The total comes to $2,996,626…
• And there’s more on the way.
• A further examination of the information supplied to Pride by business owners and investors show that:
• 21 specific buildings (or addresses) have been or are being impacted by these investments;
• A total of 19 different businesses being operated by 17 different companies/owners.

This survey of real estate investment in downtown Kinston must also take into account other investments as well:
• Over the past two years, the Community Council for the Arts has take in more than $600,000…the vast majority coming from local individual and corporate memberships and donations.
• The emerging Civil War Museum on Queen Street has been much in the news lately, winning a $500,000 infusion earlier this month from the North Carolina General Assembly and $30,000 from the 2005 General Assembly.
• The (new) CSS Neuse Foundation has received an additional $47,500.00 in donations over the past two years, plus a piece of real estate from Pride of Kinston with a tax value of nearly $5,000.
• Harmony Hall, operated by the Lenoir County Historical Association, has spent more than $60,000 in the past two years, 99% donated by local by local patrons;
• and the Cultural Heritage Museum has a $900,000 campaign underway.

This profile, moreover, is more than a calculation of real estate, dollars and cents.

It represents a profile of hope.

It is a profile in risk taking.

It is a profile of a public-private partnership.

It is a profile of belief in our town….a belief in our future.

And yes, it is a profile of economic development that should not be overlooked. It represents mind and heart...the expenditure of cold cash to make money for sure, but also to make things better for the community at large.

Remarks prepared for delivery
Wake-Up Lenoir Breakfast
Adrian King
Executive Director
Pride of Kinston, Inc.
August 7, 2007


Pride of Kinston

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Pride of Kinston • 327 North Queen Street • Kinston, NC 28501• (252) 522-4676
Located in the Kinston Enterprise Center