Here’s the Truth About Currituck Economic Development

Facts Myths written on a chalkboardYou are cordially invited to ditch the grocery gossip, big box rumors and fast food fake news and embrace the cold, hard facts 

I’d like to take a moment to address some recent “economic development misinformation.” 

It has come to my attention that somewhere along the way, the truth got tangled up in knots and now I need to untie it.

Which reminds me of one of my favorite quotes about truth: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”

I think that was from Mark Twain.

Actually, I don’t THINK it was Mark Twain, I KNOW it was Mark Twain.

That’s because I looked it up and confirmed it in several different places before putting it in this post. A process that took me all of three minutes.

Sometimes getting to the truth is easier than you think. At the end of this post I’ll share a simple and foolproof method for separating economic development reality from fantasy.

But first, let me set a few things straight...




Moyock Mythbusting & Remedial Math 

Here are three things that did not happen:

• Currituck did not block the development of any grocery store, big box store, fast food establishment or restaurant in the county. 

• Currituck County did not chase Publix out of Moyock and send them running to Dare County. 

• Currituck County did not tell Taco Bell, “Gracias, pero no gracias.”

In fact, I recently added up how many companies we blocked from opening in Currituck County and the grand total was ZERO. 

I’m no mathematician, but this was a pretty easy equation to solve since nothing plus zilch always equals nada. 

Preventing business development is pretty much the opposite of my mission.

In my experience, economic developers prefer the word YES over the word NO. Saying YES is always the first step in making something happen. Saying YES is better for business. And honestly, saying YES is more fun.

Which is why I was confused when folks from the planning department told me that some residents are convinced that the county and I prefer saying NO.

As in, “NO thanks, major grocery chain… get lost!”

Or, “You want to build a big box store where? NO way!”

Or, “NO chance fast food restaurant, we’re fine without you.”

So when some of my colleagues suggested I write a few words to clear things up, of course I said YES.

business people group on meeting and presentation  in bright modern office with construction engineer architect and worker looking building model and blueprint planbleprint plans

Inside Man & Outside Companies

Economic development is really hard work. 

I’m not saying this to impress you or make you feel sorry for me. I just want to make it clear that this profession is more than sending love letters to Fortune 500 CEOs and inviting them to relocate to our backyard.

Any city, county or town that wants to succeed in growing its economy has to understand that development takes time. It requires patience, persistence and a whole lot of luck. 

My primary job as economic development director is to grow and strengthen our business community from the inside out. I’m here to support people who want to start a new business, expand an existing business, or help relocate companies from other counties, states or even countries. 

Because we are a mostly rural North Carolina county, much of my focus falls on local business retention and expansion. I help small local companies grow into not-so-small and not-necessarily-local companies.

Bigger cities with more resources often dedicate full-time staff to “whale hunting,” which means winning multi-million (and billion) dollar deals.

It’s fun to imagine landing a headline-making development project, but spending my time and effort on those long shots is like investing in lottery tickets to finance my retirement. 

If we want Jeff Bezos to bring his second Amazon headquarters here, we can always ask politely. But the odds of a county with 25,000 residents landing a corporate headquarters with 50,000 employees is pretty slim.

That said, attracting outside companies is absolutely part of my job description. 

Site Selection & Science Homework

We want to make Currituck as attractive as possible to businesses looking to relocate. 

That’s why we continue to improve infrastructure, grow our workforce and add incentives. Our website provides easy access to the information that companies, site selectors and real estate professionals need. 


But Currituck County can’t be right for everybody. Every business has its own criteria for determining what makes a great location. There are a million different variables that go into every single site decision. 

The reality is that larger companies do most of that preliminary investigative work on their own and anonymously. They send out location-scouting teams and commercial real estate professionals to evaluate sites and properties for them and hire intermediaries to negotiate contracts. Confidentiality allows them to avoid alerting competitors and helps them maintain a strategic negotiating advantage.

You’re not going see a caravan of red and white Target SUVs rolling down Caratoke Highway, stopping to browse vacant lots. Elon Musk isn’t going to call and ask to “swing by and check out some land for a new project.” That’s just not how it works. 

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Big companies don’t want to show their hand until they’ve done their behind-the-scenes homework. Long before a company would contact me directly, they would have already used qualifying tactics like micro-demographics, market analytics, GIS maps, complicated algorithms and customer psychographics.

Thanks to big data, site selection has become more scientific than ever.

According to an article in Fast Company, even fast food chains compare “all sorts of data overlays which allow them to see auto traffic, consumer demographics, safety information, commercial mix, and other factors saves them significant money when deciding which properties to open up in.”

Big Deal Phone Calls & Making the Cut

Here’s another thing that didn’t happen...

We didn’t tell Wal-Mart that they weren’t allowed to locate in Lower Currituck. 

They probably ended up in Kitty Hawk because Kitty Hawk made more business sense for them. They did their homework. It wasn’t personal, it was just business.

That’s part of how the corporate courtship ritual works.

As much as we may want a Taco Bell, they have to want us first.

Getting a direct call is a pretty big deal. If my phone rings and someone from Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter or Starbucks is on the other end, it means that Currituck could be a contender for something exciting. 

Or it could mean nothing.

Either way, I’m going to take the call. If they want to apply, I’m going to accept their development application. We’re going to talk about what they want and what they need.

I’m not going to kick off the conversation with a NO. I don’t reject them, block them or ask the county police to escort them to the Dare County Line. 

That’s not how economic development works.

If you’re still genuinely concerned that Currituck isn’t making itself open to outside business development, please don’t worry. You can rest assured that economic development and county officials actively recruit big-name businesses. 

We work hard to get on their radar. We campaign to bring them to our county. 

Those companies that have come up in meetings and conversations recently? Publix, Wal-Mart and Taco Bell?

None of those businesses ever made applications to build in Currituck County. 

We’re proud of our reputation as a business-friendly location, but being friendly isn’t always enough. It has to make financial sense for the businesses to want to come here in the first place. 

Midsection of businessman texting on cellphone while standing at creative office

Your Foolproof Economic Development Fact Checking Hack

As promised, here is your incredibly easy and effective method for separating development rumors from real life facts.

If you really want to know what’s happening in Currituck County Economic Development, just pick up your phone and CALL LARRY at (252) 232-6015.

It’s that simple.

Dial the number or drop me an email. Ask me a question and I’ll answer you immediately. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll point you to someone who does. 

You don’t have to second-guess the gossip or wonder about the word on the street.

The truth is out there… and I'm happy to share it.

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