The Office of Strategy helps to lead and partners with community organizations on strategic initiatives and projects in New Hanover County.
Teacher incentives for kindergarten through third grade teachers in hard‐to‐staff schools to receive National Board Certification, a reading training program for teachers working in schools with the greatest disparity in student performance, and a Workforce Housing Assistance Program to alleviate the housing cost burden for K-3rd grade teachers in six hard-to-staff schools. These incentives are designed to retain teachers in hard to staff schools, provide consistency to students, and improve 3rd grade reading scores.
New Hanover County is partnering with Port City United, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, New Hanover County Schools, and Cape Fear Community College (CFCC) on an apprenticeship program to develop a workforce pipeline from our local high schools to successful careers and professional readiness.
Small Business Retention and Expansion Program
In partnership with the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, New Hanover County developed the Small Business Retention and Expansion program to aid in the retention and growth of existing businesses and to ensure our community has the resources for recruitment, relocation, and expansion of smaller businesses in high-growth sectors. Traditionally, economic development programs and incentives are geared towards significant capita investment and large numbers of jobs. Coming out of the pandemic, we saw the explosion of remote working capabilities of all sizes. This became an opportunity to create a concentrated effort on smaller investments and jobs that will ensure we have a diverse economy with higher wage jobs.
New Hanover County PreK Expansion
October 25, 2017, marked the official ribbon cutting for three new Pre-K classrooms serving 45 students at Career Readiness Academy at Mosley as part of the New Hanover County Pre-K program. The goal of this pilot program was to reduce the number of children on the wait list for NC Pre-K and Head Start by providing funding for additional slots. These classrooms continued to operate and served a total of 180 children over the next four years.
In 2021, the Board of Commissioners approved the first expansion of this Pre-K program, doubling the number of classrooms funded by the county. Three classrooms were added to the College Road Early Childcare Center for a total of six classrooms in New Hanover County serving 90 children. The Board of Commissioners approved a second expansion the following year, doubling the number of classrooms again for twelve total Pre-K classrooms.
To date, 450 students have participated in the New Hanover County Pre-K Program. The program is now operating out of six sites: Career Readiness Academy at Mosley, College Road Early Childcare Center, Howe Pre-K Center, Blair Elementary, Murrayville Elementary, and Wrightsboro Elementary.
New Hanover County has been widely affected by the opioid crisis, particularly when it came to an increase in children in foster care due to parental substance use and more babies being born each month withdrawing from opioids. To reduce these staggering statistics, the county partnered with Tides, Inc. to implement a treatment program for opioid addicted pregnant and post-partum parenting women and their children. Tides, Inc. offers the Cape Fear region’s pregnant and newly postpartum women with opioid use disorder (OUD) a coordinated system of care that treats their substance use, creates conditions for the delivery of healthy babies and works to keep the mother-baby dyad intact. Tides partners to provide a range of residential and outpatient services, including prenatal and OB/GYN care, psychiatric services, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid dependence, Substance Abuse Intensive Outpatient Treatment. The program provides job readiness training and employment assistance, parenting and life skills, developmental screenings, and early childhood intervention services for children, and offers daycare and transportation. The impact – on the family court system, public safety system, social worker caseloads and staffing needs, financial costs, and future special education needs and medical costs associated with these children and families – prompted the county to partner with a local OB/GYN to implement a program to treat opioid addicted pregnant women. New Hanover County provides an annual financial contribution to Tides to provide treatment for 24 women and their children.
This is an innovative program that is cost effective and addresses the underlying opioid addiction to improve outcomes for the mother and her child(ren). Based on a model used by the UNC hospital system (Horizons), Tides focuses on the mother-child dyad to support recovery, improve the health of the mother and her child, and improve family functioning. The overarching objective is healthier moms, babies, and families.
PaSS Program with Communities in Schools Cape Fear
New Hanover County continues to partner with Communities in Schools of Cape Fear to mentor third-grade students in preparation for their End of Grade tests through their PaSS Program. Employees from the county's SERVE Professional Development Academy participate and tutor students through the program, which provides volunteer opportunities for mentors to be paired with a student who is at risk of not reading at grade level. County employees and students meet once a week for 10 weeks to read one-on-one and practice reading comprehension skills.
Small Business Economic Incentive Grant Program
Recognizing that small businesses are the backbone of our community and the significant impact on small businesses from the COVID 19 pandemic, New Hanover County created a Small Business Economic Incentive Grant Program that provided 130 small business owners with grants of $10,000 each. The grants were provided to businesses for the purpose ensuring businesses were able to rehire or retain employees and address public health concerns with enhanced hygiene and safety. The Small Business Grants Program was created utilizing federal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the county utilized community partners to help ensure a fairly distributed and well-managed process. Wilmington Business Development (WBD) who provides economic development services to New Hanover County assisted the county in collecting applications and ensuring documentation was complete, and Live Oak Bank, a locally owned bank and large SBA lender disbursed the funds to 130 awardees.
US 421 Water & Sewer Extension
New Hanover County worked with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and other partners to extend water and sewer service along the U.S. Highway 421 corridor. This expansion, completed December 2019, brings new development opportunities, more jobs, and economic growth for to this region.
Blue Clay Road Business Park
In 2008, New Hanover County purchased approximately 120 acres of property adjacent to the detention facility on Blue Clay Road for future expansion of the jail and court system. Due to efficiencies gained in jail diversion programs, it was determined this property was no longer needed for this purpose. So, almost ten years later, the county-initiated a due diligence study to determine if the market would support the site being converted into a business park and a supporting master plan for the site. The plan for development was completed and the site became a part of the Duke site readiness program in 2019.
Utilizing resources that were made available with the American Rescue Plan, the county was able to initiate the design and construction of important water and sewer infrastructure as well as access roads that turned 120 acres of property into a full-scale business park with rail access. Working with economic development partner Wilmington Business Development, the county is working to sell parcels within the business park to businesses looking to expand or relocate to New Hanover County. This project is currently underway with infrastructure anticipated to be complete in early 2024.
New Hanover County is in the unique position of owning an entire city-block in downtown Wilmington. This block currently includes a New Hanover County Library and a 640-space parking garage, but a large portion of the block is underutilized. The vision for this block is to house a modern public library and Cape Fear Museum, better utilize the parking garage, and include private space for retail, residential, office, or hotel opportunities.
In July 2017, a feasibility study was conducted outlining a path forward and, working with development teams, the county has designed a public facility for the library and museum. The project continues to evolve, with potential private development that can help transform the downtown block. For more information about the project, which is expected to move forward in 2023, please view the Project Grace page.