January 2017 | Business View Magazine

98 99 problem– a skills problem. Folks come to our offices looking for jobs and we can’t find them a place, they aren’t ready.” Local Community College reps were also at the meetings. They listened and put together nine basic Workforce Development Training programs, covering small engine repairs, elec- tricians, HVAC, plumbing, building trades; pre- paring individuals to be self-sufficient with the skills needed to be employable.While economic development depends on businesses bringing in jobs, Ruggieri says, “If you don’t have a foun- dation of trained people for the jobs, it doesn’t happen.We realized we needed to educate people with life skills, business skills, and pro- fessional skills, so there is a workforce ready for expanding businesses and new companies looking to relocate.” The keystone project of the CNI process is the prototype for an amazing innovation center: The New Bern City Market. “It’s amazing how quickly it’s happened,” says Ruggieri, “and what a big success it will be. For a city of our size – population 30,000– I don’t imagine there’s an- other model anywhere like what we’re putting together.We’ve got great partners and received several grants already, with more to come.” The City Market will be located in the down- town core, readily accessible to public housing residents, in a vacant former diesel-generator plant. The building will be transformed into an entire campus with most space dedicated to the Craven County Community College to run their Workforce Development Training Center programs. Also in the concept is an Incubator Kitchen (cooking supplies donated by local business- es), a Maker Space for inventors and entrepre- neurs to work on projects, and a large out- door area for a Farmer’s Market. Blot explains, “The CNI study area was designated as a food desert – along with unemployment and transportation issues, there were no healthy food options, so the City Market/Farmer’s Mar- ket will bring that availability of fresh produce and local goods to the community.” Another innovative component, the Business Accelerator, will help individuals start a small business and become entrepreneurs them- selves; an opportunity to create wealth for their own families, and take part in the redevelop- ment of their community through business ownership. Blot adds, “We received a grant for $549,000 from the Golden Leaf Foundation for the Work- force Development Training Center. And we’re in the final stages of an EDA grant for close to $1.3 million for the entire project.We’re just waiting for confirmation on that before we break ground. Our goal is to have the first class running in the summer of 2017.” Situated at the confluence of two rivers, New Bern has spent a great deal of money and time creating a safe, enjoyable walking environment, and it’s paying off. Part of the initiative is a sce- nic River Walk– a two-mile loop that will end at the City Market. The city is also reducing the First Street Corridor (a main entry to the city) from four lanes to three, and adding a bike path, landscaping, and sidewalks. According to Rug- gieri, “If you come here, you’ll see how beautiful it is, but we’re filling in the quality of life piec- es – education, walkability, this very attractive public space.We’re building a community from the ground up.” New bern, North Carolina