Economic growth, public health and education initiatives and community investments will be priorities for Mecklenburg County in 2017, commissioners’ Chair Ella Scarborough said Thursday in the annual State of the County address.
“We are strong because we work together, and even though we have our differences and challenges, we always find a way to move forward,” she said.
A healthy jobs market, support for business growth and a welcome for new businesses will sustain the county’s economy, Scarborough said. She touted the county’s property tax rate, which has not changed in four years, and a 4.6 percent unemployment rate in December that was below state and national averages.
Last year, six county-approved grants helped add more than 2,000 jobs and $140 million dollars in business investment. The county’s Office of Economic Development is finishing an assessment of small businesses that is aimed at growing their numbers.
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The county health department helped expand community programs including farmers markets in neighborhoods with few grocery stores and initiatives to increase physical activity.
This year, new county investments in early childhood education are expected. A $500,000 study funded by a group of Charlotte’s top companies, the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, is underway. It has not yet produced recommendations.
The county has hired a master developer, BK Partners, to redevelop the Second Ward neighborhood known as Brooklyn Village, from which 1,000 African-American families were ousted in the 1960s. The project will include affordable housing, a new uptown park and cultural space.
Scarborough alluded to the county’s botched 2011 property revaluation by noting changes, including more staff, for the upcoming 2019 version. “We have learned from the past and we know what needs to be done,” she said.
An apprenticeship program for veterans resulted in five being hired as county code inspectors. Six more are in training.
The county will also continue work under its facilities master plan, which aims to bring county services closer to where customers live. Last year the county’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency moved into a new building on Wilkinson Boulevard. A new headquarters for Medic will open later this year.