The goal is to attract new businesses, jobs to an area already rich with aerospace assets

The Craven County commissioners will be asked at their Monday morning meeting to endorse a proposal to join surrounding counties and become an aerospace corridor to attract new high-tech businesses and jobs.

The proposal was the idea of Craven Economic Developer Timothy Downs, who talked with fellow economic developers in Lenoir and Wayne counties about joining forces in an initial marketing campaign.

Downs said the idea came to him awhile back when he was thinking about the F-35s fighter jets at Cherry Point and the potential because of the links from Cherry Point air station in Havelock and Coastal Carolina Regional Airport in New Bern, to the Global Transpark in Kinston and Seymore Johnson air base in Goldsboro.

“When you start looking at all the assets that we have, both public and private, we have a really high concentration of aerospace assets along that (U.S.) 70 corridor,” Downs said. “The idea is for the three counties to partner to come together and establish this aerospace corridor, the North Carolina Aerospace Corridor.”

The three counties have had talks with state legislators, the N.C. Department of Commerce, economic development groups and the Highway 70 Commission.

“We have gotten great support from all of them,” Downs said.

He will ask commissioners to pass a resolution endorsing the idea during the 8 a.m. meeting at the county administration building, corner of Broad and Craven streets in New Bern.

“Ultimately, what we are trying to do is just market ourselves more,” he said. “We (counties) will market as individuals and as three counties collectively.

One key element would be for the state Department of Transportation to provide some identifying signage.

“We have gotten pretty good response on that from the state,” he said. “We don’t have any decision, but we have gotten pretty good feedback.”

There are no specific boundary lines through the three counties, although U.S. 70 is the center strip.

He said Wayne County has already approved the concept and Lenoir is expected to follow.

“We will move forward, but the final decision will be with the Department of Transportation to get some signage and then for the Department of Commerce to recognize us as such, which we think would be good thing,” Downs said.

The Monday proposal before the commissioners does not include any requests for money.

He said it would involve an inter-local agreement between the counties, with a commitment of $1,000 annually to begin. Craven’s portion has already been pledged by the Craven 100 Alliance.

The money would include building a web site and developing promotional materials.

Charlie Hall can be reached at 252-635-5667 or 252-259-7585, or Follow him on Twitter @CharlieHallNBSJ