NC tourism officials help mark EC's naming as 'retirement community'

062118 Retirement Community Dedication

Mayor Bettie Parker (left) poses with (l-r) Andre Nabors of Retire NC, Wit Tuttell of Visit NC, and Betty Jo Shepheard, field representative for U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., during an event celebrating Elizabeth City's official designation as a "Certified Retirement Community" at Arts of the Albemarle, Wednesday.


By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, June 21, 2018

North Carolina's tourism director visited Elizabeth City on Wednesday, welcoming it to the ranks of “Certified Retirement Communities” and pledging to be an “amplifier” in the city’s marketing efforts.

Visit NC Executive Director Wit Tuttell and Retire NC administrator Andre Nabors met with local officials at Arts of the Albemarle to formally welcome Elizabeth City’s designation as a Certified Retirement Community.

City officials and the Elizabeth City Area Committee of 100 announced the city had received the retirement community designation about a month ago, making Elizabeth City the 18th rural community to earn the title, which comes with the state’s marketing help.

“We stir the waters,” said Tuttell, explaining the state considers tourism integral to economic development.

Tourism isn't just about benefiting from vacationers, but appealing to people to relocate and bring lasting benefits to North Carolina, he said.

Tuttell said Elizabeth City benefits from its “perfect location” and proximity to numerous attractions and amenities retirees look for.

Nabors welcomed Elizabeth City to the CRC program as well, noting it adds another “semi-coastal community” as an option for retirees. Notably, Edenton, Washington, and New Bern are also certified retirement communities.

Nabors said one benefit to the designation is that it allows state tourism officials to promote Elizabeth City as a relocation option for retirees at trade shows, particularly in the northeast United States and the Washington DC area. The next such trade show is in September in New Jersey, he said.

Nabors said Retire NC will promote Elizabeth City through its website and Facebook page, and offer advertising opportunities at discounts. He also expects Retire NC to generate thousands of leads each year, leads it will share with local officials.

Asked to estimate the value of Retire NC's services, Nabors couldn't provide an exact dollar amount. However, he said Elizabeth City paid a $10,000 application fee that won it certified retirement community status for five years, after which time the city will have to reapply. In effect, it cost the $2,000 a year to join the program, and the state's services are well worth that amount, he said.

As for which local officials will coordinate marketing with Retire NC, Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Christina Rehklau said that’s still being determined. It will probably be a collaboration of the CVB and other economic development groups, she added.

Mayor Bettie Parker thanked both Tuttell and Nabors for becoming promoters for the city. She said that retirement community designation recognizes the city as “a place that feeds the senses and the soul.” The city is working on many initiatives to appeal to retirees, including trying to find a site and funding for a new senior center, she noted.

Parker also said Elizabeth City State University, College of The Albemarle and Mid-Atlantic Christian University are working to develop course and degree offerings for older adults because they recognize baby boomers are “lifelong learners.”

Wayne Harris, director of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission, said local businesses have also partnered to offer a package deal to older couples, covering lodging and meals for two nights for $249. 

One prominent retiree also spoke during Wednesday's event: Thomas Conway, who retired as chancellor of ECSU last month. Retiring in Elizabeth City was a “no-brainer” for him and his wife, he said, commenting both the city and ECSU have “good bones.”