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Pasquotank to help pilot Cooper's 'Hometown Strong'

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Governor Roy Cooper greets people at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new addition at Mayne Pharma on April 17, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Friday, April 20, 2018

Pasquotank County has been named one of six pilots for “Hometown Strong,” Gov. Roy Cooper’s initiative to improve how the state partners with and helps rural communities.

“I want to make sure that state government is listening to local leaders and doing everything it can to strengthen rural North Carolina,” Cooper said in a press release making the announcement Friday.

The announcement noted Pasquotank will join Burke, Edgecombe, Lenoir, Madison and Robeson counties in becoming the first Hometown Strong counties.

Hometown Strong is a work group created last year to make sure rural communities are heard in Raleigh and have better access to the state's data and resources, initiative Director Pryor Gibson told Pasquotank commissioners in a presentation earlier this month.

The initiative does not appear to come with any additional funding for the counties, but it should offer them a seat at the table with state officials they didn't have before.

“In coming weeks, an action team comprised of cabinet agency representatives will begin holding roundtable discussions in partner counties, creating new templates for leveraging the resources of state government to benefit rural North Carolina,” Cooper's announcement states.

Pasquotank Board of Commissioners Chairman Cecil Perry welcomed the governor's announcement and the elevated profile it will give the county.

“I think it's great,” Perry said. “I think it's an opportunity to present ourselves to others.”

Perry said Pasquotank is a leading county in northeastern North Carolina, and it has assets beyond the U.S. Coast Guard Base and Amazon Wind Farm US East, both well-known facilities, to highlight. The partnership will also allow Pasquotank to communicate its needs to state officials, he said.

Perry also said that, while Pasquotank will play a lead role in the partnership, he anticipates the county will consult Elizabeth City officials on initiative efforts when appropriate.

Pasquotank County Manager Sparty Hammett also welcomed the partnership.

“I'm excited,” Hammett said, calling it a great opportunity for Pasquotank to maximize state resources and expertise.

For example, he said he's already speaking with an employee of the N.C. Department of Information Technology about modernizing the county's website. A modern, user-friendly website is important for local governments to have, because it's now one of the first things that prospective residents and businesses look at, he said.

Notably, Hammett only started with Pasquotank last month after working in South Carolina. That means Hometown Strong also offers him a good opportunity for networking with state officials, he noted.

As for when Hometown Strong participants will next meet, Hammett said they're tentatively planning for early June.

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