Economic Development Director Will Carter knows Stokes County well and is looking forward to promoting all it has to offer.
The economic development director position was funded in last year’s county budget, but Carter officially began just seven weeks ago on May 14. Since then, he’s been visiting businesses and getting acclimated into the new role.
“The number one issue I keep hearing from businesses is they can’t find qualified help,” he said. “Our population is shrinking, according to the census. In July, 2017 we had 45,717 people here, that’s down 1,618 people from 2010.”
As a native of the county, he graduated from South Stokes in 1985, and has owned several small businesses and retired from RJ Reynolds.
“I took this position because I love Stokes County and the people here. We’ve got to do the right things to grow this county. The same issue that faces us and faces every other county is money. It takes funding and you’ve got to go out and find it. In the larger counties, because of their politics and connections, they get money the majority of the time.”
Carter said it’s no secret that most deals are done behind the scenes.
“If a company announces something today, you can be guaranteed it was five to six years in the making. It didn’t happen in a week or a month; it takes years. We have to draw in people, we can’t continue to keep losing them and it’s going to take time. It can’t happen overnight, but it can happen.”
He added, “We have a little something for everyone in our county. If you want a city setting, we have King. If you want to live in the country, the northern side of the county is beautiful. We have mountains, a river. This is the prettiest county in the state.”
Carter will work closely with Tory Mabe, the county’s economic tech analyst, who he said is “a great asset to Stokes.”
“I believe we complement each other well and he does a great job with social media and letting people know what’s going on in our area. Our job is to get folks here and send them to our local businesses.”
The two will continue to utilize the Stokes County app and website which promotes every business in the county free of charge.
Over the years, Carter said he’s been concerned and complained tactfully, about the area losing businesses and not being marketed to its full potential.
“I wish leaders would have had the foresight 50 years earlier to build a nice road that would open up and circle around the county. We’ve had opportunities in the past. But now we have to lay out a plan, and do our best to make some progress, so that my kids and grandkids don’t look back and ask why we didn’t do more.”
Amanda Dodson may be reached at 336-813-2426.