New Hanover County is Planning, Measuring & Strategically Investing

Since 2012, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners embraced a five-year strategic plan that has guided and directed county decisions and initiatives. The strategic plan established three focus areas to meet the needs of our citizens; and through effective county management, we have planned, measured, and strategically invested in our community to become a model of good governance. 

Over the past five years, we have exceeded the goals that were set in the strategic plan and have had many accomplishments along the way. I want to provide a quick snapshot of some of those successes, but I invite you to get a more in-depth look in our strategic plan report here. 

Intelligent Growth and Economic Development 

Ensuring that our community has a strong, diverse economy with high-quality jobs has been a top priority for New Hanover County.  

The county has helped to create an environment where economic development can organically happen. By commissioning the strategic and targeted study on our community’s strengths and assets in 2014, known as the Pathways to Prosperity study, the county helped to identify target industries for our community and ways to encourage growth in these industries.  

As a measure in the strategic plan, we knew we would be successful if the private sector created 6,000 new jobs in the county. Our community has exceeded that goal, creating 14,338 new jobs overall in the past five years, as of the first quarter of 2017 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

Another measure of success was to create an environment where it was easy for people to do business with the county, thereby encouraging the private sector to enhance and grow the tax base by at least $1 billion. Five years later, the private sector has invested $1.93 billion in this community.  

The county’s efforts to extend sewer and water service along US Highway 421, build effective regional partnerships that promote this area and expand the local innovation economy, and provide incentives to help create new jobs and expand the tax base have all supported intelligent growth and economic development.  

Using core business principles and innovative programs, the county has lowered the landfill tip fee by 19% over the past four years, all while doing more to increase recycling efforts and enhance Environmental Management services. By partnering with the private sector to create the only Materials Recovery Facility in southeastern North Carolina, the county has diverted waste out of the landfill – increasing its life and improving our environment – while also increasing exports, supporting manufacturing, and creating 30 new private-sector jobs. 

Through federal, state, and local partnerships, the county has worked to keep sand on our beaches and restore inlets, protecting tourism and our environment. And the county’s first-ever Comprehensive Land Use Plan was approved, outlining how the county can attract growth and accommodate this growth in a sustainable manner over the next 25 years.   

Superior Public Health and Public Safety 

Superior public safety has also been a top priority for New Hanover County. In 2012, criminal justice experts in our area encouraged the county to focus on the community’s youth and combatting crime early on. A measure of success was to reduce juvenile recidivism, the rate by which first-time offenders reoffend, by 5%. In five years, through investments in the Sheriff’s Office, Community Justice Services (CJS), and by directing departments to focus on early childhood engagement, the county has reduced juvenile recidivism by 16%. Before the county began focusing efforts on juvenile recidivism, 21% of youth would reoffend again; now, only 5% reoffend. This marked improvement and the county’s efforts are going to have a lasting effect on our community and on our youth. 

To reduce obesity and ensure long-term health, the county has innovatively enhanced park services to encourage active lifestyles by adding a splash pad, all-inclusive playground, skate park, outdoor gym, expanded parks space, and miles of new walking trails. And in just the past year, New Hanover County’s Senior Resource Center has helped 669 of our older adults save more than $600,000 on prescription costs and improved seniors’ health through evidence-based programs. 

Superior Education and Workforce 

Preparing students to be successful and improving workforce readiness skills are also top priorities for New Hanover County. Through the Board’s leadership, we have increased county funding to New Hanover County Schools (NHCS) by $13.3 million over the past five years. Our children in public and charter schools now receive $2,700 in county funding per student. 

We have expanded Pre-K, creating 45 new seats for three and four-year olds, to help prepare them for kindergarten. And we have supported the growth of Cape Fear Community College with voter-approved bonds to construct Emerging Technology buildings, Union Station, and the Wilson Center.   

With a strategic focus, the county’s goal was to help increase the average weekly wage by 10% in our community. By investing in education and our workforce and facilitating opportunities for the private sector to bring more jobs to the county, our average weekly wage has increased by 13.8% over the past five years, as of the first quarter of 2017 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.    

Effective County Management and Good Governance 

Achieving the goals our Board has set wouldn’t be possible without our dedicated county employees and good governance. Over the past five years, the county has implemented LEAN principles to make sure we are better, faster, and more efficient. We have an award-winning employee professional development program and we continue to build internal capacity that helps our employees feel more engaged and more committed to serving our citizens. 

Moving Forward 

New Hanover County has accomplished a tremendous amount over the past five years and there is still much more to do to ensure our community is safe, healthy and secure. The Board of Commissioners has directed county administration to refresh the strategy map and develop new measures and targets that will guide the work of the county for the next five years. These updates will be presented for the board to consider by the end of the calendar year.  

The Strategic Plan report is available on the county’s website and hard copies are available at the Government Center. If you would like multiple copies of the report for a meeting or event, please contact the county’s Communications office. 

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