courthouse-clocktowerHere in New Hanover County, the community, elected officials and county staff cooperate to balance a high quality of life with a progressive business and economic climate.

At less than 200 square miles, New Hanover County is the second smallest – geographically – of the 100 North Carolina counties; however, it is home to more than 225,702 people.

New Hanover County is not just a great place in which to live or visit. New Hanover County is also a great place to do business. Tourism, film production, the service and retail sectors are the engines that power our economy.

Our Mission: New Hanover County is committed to providing equitable opportunities and exceptional public services through good governance to ensure a safe, healthy, secure and thriving community for all.

The government of New Hanover County is committed to ensuring that you are safe, healthy and secure; that is our promise to you.

New Hanover County Manager Chris Coudriet serves as chief administrator of county government and maintains responsibility for administering all departments under the general control of the five-member Board of Commissioners.

The county manager’s work includes the development of the county’s annual budget. The budget is the policy document, financial plan, and operations guide and communications device of county government. It reflects the county’s response to the needs of the community and residents’ requests for services. New Hanover County’s government is operating on a $458 million multi-fund budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2021 and ending June 30, 2022, serving more than 225,000 residents.

In addition, the manager and his executive leadership team are responsible for aligning the operations of the county to the adopted strategic plan and advancing the county’s mission and vision through five key focus areas: superior education and workforce, superior public health and safety, intelligent growth and economic development, strong financial performance, and effective county management.

Mr. Coudriet has served as the county manager since July 2012. Prior to his appointment, he served as assistant county manager for New Hanover County for four years and as county manager in Franklin and Washington counties, N.C. He has more than twenty-five years of public administration experience, with fifteen years as a county manager or assistant county manager in North Carolina. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from East Carolina University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

Mr. Coudriet currently serves in several leadership positions with the National Association of Counties (NACo), including vice-chair of the Public Health and Healthy Communities Subcommittee and vice-chair of the Resilient Counties Advisory Board. He is also a member of NACo’s Information Technology Standing Committee and the International Economic Development Committee. Recently, Mr. Coudriet received a Presidential Recognition Award from the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners (NCACC) for his contribution as a member of the opioid settlement working group, also known as the 555 committee, which helped NCACC and the North Carolina Department of Justice to maximize North Carolina’s share of a $26 billion national settlement fund to ensure resources reach communities as quickly, effectively, and directly as possible.

He is a native of eastern North Carolina. Chris and his wife, Leigh, and two children Montgomery and Silas, reside in Wilmington.

New Hanover County’s work is aligned with six shared values: Professionalism, Equity, Integrity, Innovation, Stewardship, and Accountability. The county’s employees consistently exemplify these values and go above and beyond in carrying out the mission to serve the county’s citizens.

Learn more about the county’s mission, vision, and strategy here.

In 2014, New Hanover County commissioned an economic development strategy entitled the Pathways To Prosperity Report by Jay Garner and Associates, which provided a road map to help New Hanover County strengthen the local business climate and assist in increasing the county’s economic competitiveness. Many of the recommendations outlined in the report have been implemented or are underway and helped to inform the county’s 2018 Strategic Plan. In 2021, the Board of Commissioners authorized an update to the report, given the many changes that have occurred since the initial report was developed. The updated Economic Mobility Report by Greenfield, completed in 2022, provides an overview of progress that has been made, current demographics and workforce data, important county assets, key findings, and an overview of the primary and emerging target sectors in New Hanover County.

Learn more and view the reports here »

Manager's Message

Economic Mobility – Where do we go from here?

Posted April 19, 2022 at 8:54 am

By County Manager, Chris Coudriet

In 2014, New Hanover County commissioned an economic development strategy, commonly referred to as the Garner Report. The goal of this document was simple – provide a clear focus of how the county can foster economic development through three key components: retaining and growing existing area businesses, increasing private business employment and investment in the county, and recruiting emerging business sectors to our community.

That study helped in designing and adopting the county’s 2018-2023 strategic plan, which focused on Intelligent Growth and Economic Development, Superior Education and Workforce, and Superior Public Health and Safety.

Last year, we contracted with Greenfield, a local economic development firm, to review and update the Garner Report to provide a comprehensive look at what we have accomplished thus far, what is in the process of happening and what we can expect in the future. This Economic Mobility Report was just adopted by the Board of Commissioners as the county’s economic development strategy for the coming years.

Eight years since the Garner Report was unveiled, the review clearly shows how far our community has come. And though the year 2030 seems far off, it’s important to think about what opportunities we can foster over the next eight years to help our community continue to grow.

Many of the recommendations in the Garner Report have gone from conception to completion over the past eight years. Water and sewer lines have been extended along US Hwy 421 to help encourage new business development in this portion of our county. Significant upgrades have been made to the facilities at ILM, making the airport an even greater economic driver and welcome mat in Southeastern North Carolina. We have developed a Comprehensive Plan and created a Unified Development Ordinance to align with future growth opportunities and needs. And the county has advocated for continued improvements to state-wide incentives for the film industry, which has had a record year and is a major economic driver for our area. I could keep going, but I hope you get the point – a lot has been accomplished.

While growing New Hanover County is important, we understand that the entire Southeast Region is an intertwined economic ecosystem. The revised study shows that while a majority of our county’s workforce does reside here, 44 percent of people working in New Hanover County do not call it home. It’s why the continued support of the North Carolina Southeast micro-marketing alliance has been important to aid growth in New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Columbus counties so that entire region is attractive for businesses and residents.

The combination of devastating storms, particularly Hurricane Florence, and the COVID-19 pandemic certainly had a major economic impact on our county over the last four years. However, because of the diverse array of employment opportunities we have worked to establish here, recovery has been easier to see.

Which brings us to the reason the Garner Study has been refreshed – where do we go from here?

Data from the 2020 Census gives us metrics on where our county’s population stands. In 10 years, New Hanover County grew by 11.4 percent, higher than the state’s total of 9.5 percent. While the total number of individuals choosing to call our county home is climbing, the age range of those residing here has seen a shift. The total population of those under 18 fell by 5 percent over a 10-year period, while the total population of those 65-and-over rose by 4.5 percent.

From an employment perspective, approximately 25 percent of the county’s total jobs are tied to retail trade or the accommodation and food service industries, two of the lower wage sectors. Finance, utilities, professional/scientific/tech services, information and manufacturing make up approximately 20 percent of all county-based employment.

This is where the disconnect lies, as the gap between entry-level and long-term professional employment is significant. Approximately 36 percent of all jobs in New Hanover County pay less than $750 a week or less than $39,000 per year.

Closing this margin will mean focusing on several primary target sectors to create opportunities for true middle class employment opportunities that will bring balance to a currently unbalanced local economy.

Those opportunities include expanding existing business in our area and creating conditions that allow for jobs related to warehouse and logistics, life science manufacturing/pharmaceuticals, technology companies and offshore wind to either grow or establish themselves in our county. Additionally, we need to continue working to keep the state film incentive policy effective and robust to sustain the existing industry base but also ensure more growth for the community as new film projects move from vision to action.

Other target sectors where we would like to see new employment creation include boat building and repair, aerospace, building materials and companies connected to the emerging blue economy such as weather prediction, ship communications, dredging and dock construction. This sector has close ties to the life sciences and pharmaceutical manufacturing sectors as well as offshore wind.

How we do that comes down to one thing – New Hanover County must be an attractive place for potential businesses and new employees to call home.

Our goal is to provide resources to our students, both young and old, so that when they graduate from our public schools or colleges they are prepared to enter the workforce as ready workforce capital. We must continue to make living in our county affordable, with a focus on helping families achieve generational wealth through property ownership. We must make New Hanover County a place people know not just as a tourist destination during the summer, but as a place to call home year-round.

Additionally, companies must see a ready-to-start workforce along with the space to put a facility for their business and a community that is eager to welcome them. It’s something we’ve taken great pride in for a long time, and we have no intention of changing our attitude in that regard.

Over the last eight years, New Hanover County has seen significant growth. We have welcomed families and businesses to the region, creating the vibrant prosperous diverse coastal community we all envision. Eight years from now, we hope to see even greater strides in building a balanced economy with advancement opportunities for all who seek them. That is today’s goal and, with some hard work, something that can become tomorrow’s reality.

To learn more about the 2022 Economic Mobility Report, click here.

A Public Service Profile for Diversity & Equity

Posted March 15, 2022 at 11:17 am

By County Manager, Chris Coudriet In June 2020, New Hanover County established the Office of Diversity & Equity. The mission of this new office was clear – promote an inclusive … Read More »

Port City United for Change

Posted February 18, 2022 at 8:45 am

By County Manager, Chris Coudriet I’ll believe it when I see it. They are words that have truly stuck with me and others on our staff here at New Hanover County for many months. Like … Read More »

A Public Service Profile for Pandemic Operations

Posted January 25, 2022 at 9:08 am

By County Manager, Chris Coudriet As I shared this past November, New Hanover County Commissioners and staff developed an innovative model, through the use of American Rescue Plan funds, to … Read More »

Combating COVID, helping our community take center stage in 2021

Posted December 17, 2021 at 8:28 am

By County Manager, Chris Coudriet Around this time one year ago, we reflected on all that had occurred in 2020 and knew we were finishing a year unlike anything any of us had … Read More »