Editor’s note: Don Kirkman is Carteret County Economic Development Director

Carteret County is a welcoming place.  Our citizens and local governments appreciate our visitors, second home owners, and new residents.  We value their economic contributions but beyond that, we are grateful for the many other contributions they make to our community.  That is why it was so difficult to ask people to stay away.

There was so much we did not know about COVID-19 during the early stages of the outbreak in the United States.  And there is much we still do not know.  And we will never know what might have happened had we maintained business as usual and did not restrict travel to Carteret County.  Local leaders had to err on the side of caution to protect public health and to assure that our health care system and our amazing health care professionals would not be overwhelmed with so much uncertainty.

I learned a new term during the shelter-in-place period: “Morton’s fork.”  Unlike a Hobson’s choice, which is a ‘take it or leave it’ decision where only one choice is available, Morton’s fork is a “between a rock and a hard place” dilemma where one must choose between two alternatives, both of which have adverse consequences.  In this case, decision makers at every level of government faced a Morton’s fork choice between protecting public health and causing huge economic dislocations or allowing normal movement and business activity and risking a surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

The people of Carteret County are resilient, and they responded as they always do in a crisis – they did the extraordinary:

  • Our best-in-state school system and outstanding Carteret Community College immediately pivoted to online instruction.
  • Our award-winning Carteret Health Care system, now a Mayo Clinic Care Network member, quickly moved to prepare for the worst, which fortunately did not come.
  • And the citizens of Carteret County immediately went about the work of taking care of each other—particularly those who lost their jobs or suffered other economic impacts from the coronavirus.

We are delighted to welcome you back.  Travel restrictions imposed by Carteret County and our municipal governments have been lifted, and the county is now open to second home owners, short-term and long-term renters, day visitors, and new residents.  The county is still subject to the Governor’s Executive Orders, and it will be some time before all businesses are able to reopen.  Social distancing and vigilant hygiene practices are still the order of the day, and the new normal will be different for all of us, wherever we are, for the foreseeable future.

Long before COVID-19, a primary focus of Carteret County’s economic development efforts was attracting people to move to the Crystal Coast as full time residents.  In many ways, our recent experience with the pandemic has validated our strategic focus on “people attraction” and the many advantages Carteret County offers for permanent residents:

·       One of North Carolina’s highest rated public school systems

·       A stunningly beautiful natural environment offering the Atlantic Ocean and many sounds, bays and rivers

·       Abundant year-round recreation

·       An award-winning healthcare system and Mayo Clinic-affiliated hospital

·       North Carolina’s lowest county property tax rate (and low municipal rates as well)

·       The Duke, UNC, and NC State marine science laboratories

·       Cape Lookout National Seashore, Fort Macon State Park, Croatan National Forest, the NC Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores, the NC Maritime Museum in Beaufort, the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum on Harkers Island, and many other cultural amenities

·       Great restaurants and bars, and many festivals and events across the county throughout the year

·       New Interstate 42 connecting the Research Triangle Region to Carteret County

In short, the Crystal Coast is the ideal location for people of all ages who can work remotely, who are seeking a growing community with abundant employment opportunities, or who are seeking to retire or start a new business or career.  We stand ready to answer your questions or provide information about all of the reasons you should live in Carteret County.  Please visit us at www.crystalcoasted.com or call at (252) 222-6121.  We look forward to meeting you.