Watauga Economic Development Commission Meets in Blowing Rock, Discusses Childcare & Future Projects
The Watauga Economic Development Commission (EDC) met Thursday, March 16, 2023, for its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, convening at the American Legion Hall in Downtown Blowing Rock. This marked the first meeting of the group in a municipality other than Boone, following the stated commitment of rotating the monthly meetings around all five municipalities in Watauga County.
Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers welcomed the Watauga EDC to Blowing Rock, and Town Manager Shane Fox gave a presentation of the recently approved Town of Blowing Rock childcare program. Childcare will be provided for up to 20 children of Town of Blowing Rock employees in a town-owned building at 50% market rate. The program cost to the Town of Blowing Rock will be roughly equal to the cost of one full-time employee that would ostensibly be lost without available child care.
“Access to affordable childcare has a direct link to both employee retention and recruitment, and to overall economic growth,” said Fox. “The Town of Blowing Rock providing an on-site childcare center is a solution to this problem and is a game changer. Having on-site quality and affordable childcare will provide a peace of mind to our employees that will result in increased job satisfaction, and in turn job retention, and in today’s market, job retention is job recruitment. The Town and other employers that are willing to think outside the box like providing on-site childcare will gain a competitive advantage with both current and prospective employees, truly differentiating themselves in the ever-evolving workplace environment.”
Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Director of Economic Development Joe Furman shared details of the recently awarded $5,000 seed grant from the Appalachian Gateway Community Initiative to study the advancement of the arts along the US-321 corridor between Boone and Blowing Rock.
The bulk of the meeting was spent discussing future activities and priorities, with emphasis on learning about economic development issues and opportunities throughout Watauga County. With numerous new appointments to the EDC, the group voted to hold a 3-4 hour retreat-style meeting at its next gathering, to have more time to discuss priorities and direction for the group’s work over the coming year.
“The level of interest and expertise of EDC members is impressive,” said Furman. “I anticipate an excellent discussion next month resulting in strong consensus. It will be an interesting and informative session.”
The next meeting will be held Thursday, April 20, 2023, from 11AM-3PM in Blowing Rock at the American Legion Hall, which was offered again by the Town of Blowing Rock to help facilitate a retreat-style discussion. The meeting is open to the public.