Washington - Homegrown Tools

Washington, NC

Updated: 2022

Located at the center of a regional cluster of marine and boat-building businesses, Washington partners with the community college to create a workforce development and entrepreneurship program to capitalize on the booming industry.

Median Household Income2020$37,109
Poverty Rate 202028.4%
Proximity to Urban Center 107 miles to Raleigh, N.C.
Proximity to Interstate Highway 65 miles
Case Study Time Frame 2003-2007
Municipal Budget 2022-2023112.9 million
Data Source: US Census, American Community Survey
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Washington is taking advantage of the existing marine trades cluster in eastern North Carolina by upgrading the skills of its workforce and fostering entrepreneurial development in the marine trades industry. After a number of plant closures throughout the 1990s, Washington officials partnered with county economic development officials and the local community college in 2004 to develop the Skills Center, a business incubator that provides worker training and entrepreneurial development for new marine trade firms. Since opening in 2004, the Skills Center has generated two new boat manufacturers in Washington, creating more than 100 jobs.


What are the lessons learned from this story?


Workforce development is economic development. This is a story about using workforce development as a driver of entrepreneurship development strategies, a way to give local entrepreneurs a competitive advantage. Washington is demonstrating that, especially in small rural communities, workforce development programs can catalyze economic development in ways beyond just training workers.


Recognize and tap into regional economic opportunities. In times of economic transition, Washington chose to build on its unique waterfront location and its shipping heritage to become part of a broader economic engine, the marine trades cluster in eastern North Carolina. Doing so allowed Washington to become a workforce development hub for this growing economic sector. The town was strategic in terms of evaluating what it could offer to the growing marine trades cluster and recognizing opportunities to set the town apart from other towns in the region.