Stacy Woodhouse, economic development director for Warren County, was on Wednesday’s edition of WIZS’ Town Talk program to discuss the strengths and challenges facing the rural area.
“When people ask me how do you market rural America and rural counties, I tell them it’s a very different story for every county,” Woodhouse said. “We have strengths and weaknesses. A lot of our weaknesses are the same: rural school systems and density by definition; we have a lack of density.”
What is unique about Warren County, according to Woodhouse, are the strengths. “Warren County has access to two beautiful lakes, a thriving downtown, a new brewery coming the first of the year and beautiful, rolling land that’s very comparable to the $30,000 an acre horse farms you see in Northern, VA.”
Woodhouse said people are often pleasantly surprised by the low prices in the area. “When people come down here from the North and see the value of land they get for the price, access and quality of life, they’re just shocked.”
Woodhouse himself was sold on the value when he was looking to relocate his family from bustling Charleston, SC six years ago. With a background in commercial real estate at his advantage, Woodhouse purchased a 90-acre farm in Warren County with the goal of raising his three children in a more rural setting.
As economic development director, Woodhouse’s responsibilities include tourism, recruitment and industry retention. Although he cannot release detailed information at this time, Woodhouse is encouraged by upcoming projects that will grow the area’s economic base and provide job opportunities.
One such project includes a manufacturing operation that will provide 10 jobs initially, with a total of 30 expected within a five-year time period. “For us, getting those jobs is a big deal. Us getting 30 jobs is like Raleigh getting Amazon,” Woodhouse laughed.
Other projects in the works include discussions with a medical firm and the construction of the brewery expected to open in downtown Warrenton early in 2019. According to Woodhouse, demolition for the brewery project began a few weeks ago.
Woodhouse emphasized the importance of retail, especially in a small community. “A lot of economic development directors in larger cities don’t even bother with retail, but retail is a big part of our community and sales tax.”
The group responsible for the future brewery, Table Top Media, is an example of Woodhouse’s next point of discussion, the importance of attracting entrepreneurs to the area. “Table Top Media is an amazing marketing company that does everything from high-end hotels to restaurants,” Woodhouse explained.
The company is a perfect example of the type of business Woodhouse hopes to attract to the area. “They were looking for quality of life and value around the Raleigh area and found Warren County!”
To continue the upward trend of business and industry moving to the area, Woodhouse said it is important to keep an open mind. “When you’re trying to create economic development in a small community you have to be very creative. You cannot take anything off the table.”
To listen to the interview in its entirety, please click here.
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