We were outside the racquetball courts and a newly arrived retiree from up north commented to me that Henderson would never advance economically until it fixed its schools. Such a verdict is not new. In fact it is one of the most consistent mantras of our community. Talk to just about any citizen about Henderson and they will quickly rattle off a string of negatives about our community, always including the matter of poor schools.
Not long ago the Dispatch reported on a meeting of the Economic Development Commission and the County Commissioners that focused on how to “brand” our community. In that meeting it was commented that Vance County needed to have a focus and a target for economic develop and to market that brand aggressively.
I do not know how wide spread the comments have been, but two of the wiser people in this community, two who have both led very successful businesses, have observed that Vance County and the EDC ought to focus on marketing to retirees. All of the groups concerned about economic development: The Chamber of Commerce, The EDC, the City and the County ought to be running ads in the AARP bulletin, magazines that target the people approaching retirement, in the newspapers in Boston, New York, Newark and other major northeast areas. This ought to be our number one marketing target.
In my mind there are many pluses that can be highlighted: we have a great lake area; we have two major golf courses; we have a great YMCA and we have an above average Adcock Recreational Center; we have great travel options as I-85 and U.S. 1 go right through our county. (Remember most people in the northeast are used to long commutes. From Brookline to downtown Boston by rail is close to 45 minutes if the T is running on schedule.) We are only three hours from professional football in Charlotte or DC. There are national powers in basketball. We are close to NASCAR racing. We are about four hours from the coast and about four to five hours from the mountains. We have a wonderful climate with all four seasons. There are first class medical facilities within an hour’s drive. There is first class entertainment at the DPAC (and soon at our own Performing Arts Center). There are educational opportunities at the host of universities and schools plus continuing ed at VGCC. There is an incredible Library. And the amount of house that one can buy in our community for the money is way more than the house one could buy in other retirement places.
For Vance County the great benefits would include new names on the tax rolls. Retirees would not be looking at the quality of schools, though the new property taxes might give the county additional income to improve the schools. The marketing would have to be all along the northeast and would have to be constantly repeated. This marketing focus would have to be aggressive. But Vance County does have these advantages over other communities who are also needing revival. We might have to make some infrastructure additions. But we have already begun to have county water. Contractors would be happy to build “dream” homes. If we are looking for “branding” and a marketing program, I think the suggestion of those two wise successful business people makes great sense.