Editor’s note: As part of our commitment to covering “The Business of the Greater Outer Banks”, WOBX has reached out to candidates running for state and local office this November in our coverage area to answer a series of questions focused on economic development and the visitor economy. We’ve included candidates who are running unopposed as a service to our readers. Some candidates did not respond to the questionnaire at the time of publication, and we will update this story when we get their answers.
Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, a Democrat, and 13th District Congressman Ted Budd, a Republican, are vying to fill the seat in Washington that becomes available with the retirement of Sen. Richard Burr. Also running are Matthew Hoh of the Green Party, Libertarian Shannon Bray and write-in candidate Michelle Lewis.
Budd, Hoh, Bray and Lewis have not submitted answers.
Essential/worker housing continue to be one of the main challenges facing the overall business climate on the Outer Banks and in northeastern North Carolina. What steps will you take to address this housing shortage?
Safe and affordable home is fundamental to families’ and individuals’ well-being and economic security and crucial for our businesses.
Our state – and the Outer Banks – has a critical shortage of affordable, quality rental homes, and the cost of rent has more than doubled over the last 10 years on average. Housing prices have also skyrocketed, pushing so many working North Carolinians out of the market.
As Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, I took action during the pandemic and created a first of its kind program for tenants and landlords to mediate disputes to help people stay in their homes. And in the Senate, I would push to build and expand affordable
housing options for middle-class families and our most vulnerable including seniors, low-income families, and veterans.
We need federal investment and grants to expand our affordable housing supply and bring costs down, including in rural and coastal areas.
We must also make investments for repairs and upgrades that make housing safe, energy efficient, and climate-resilient – as we’ve seen so much of our housing infrastructure age and be damaged by climate disasters.
What do you see as the other challenges facing overall economic development in your area, and how will you address them?
Inflation is one of the greatest challenges to economic development in North Carolina.
People here are struggling – feeling the pain everywhere from the pump to prescription drug prices. And we’ve seen corporations take advantage and raise their own prices while making record profits.
To tackle rising costs for families and businesses, I’d start by holding big corporations accountable for flagrant price gouging. Big oil and drug companies have made record profits as their workers and North Carolinians struggle to make ends meet – and it’s unacceptable.
We also must continue to grow our manufacturing sector and our Made-In-America economy, so events abroad don’t raise prices here. North Carolina has shown we can be a major hub for high-tech, good-paying jobs and our next US Senator must focus on growing these industries to help lower costs.
What are your ideas and goals to boost overall economic development in the area?
Investing in our small businesses and entrepreneurs is key to ensuring North Carolina’s coastal economies thrive and grow.
The Outer Banks needs a Senator who will fight for the investments that will help small businesses support their communities. We need to expand access to capital that businesses need to grow.
We must prioritize funding vocational and apprenticeship programs that are a direct pipeline to good paying jobs.
And we must support our working parents with affordable child care, make the expanded Child Tax Credit permanent, and implement paid family leave, like I did as Chief Justice.
What are your ideas and goals in helping support the current visitor economy and help it to grow in the area?
We must improve our infrastructure and make it easier for people to visit our beautiful state, including our rural and coastal communities. I support substantial federal investments in our infrastructure so that our bridges, roads, and water systems are safe and reliable and so all communities have access to high-speed internet.
I also support strong state and federal disaster prevention planning, investments in climate-resilient infrastructure, and funding for disaster preparedness that keeps our communities safe and our visitor economies thriving.
What other challenges does the area face in maintaining the current visitor economy, and how will you address it?
Tackling the climate crisis is imperative to our health, economy, and security, and the consequences of inaction are already hurting the Outer Banks and North Carolina. Longer and more damaging hurricane seasons and extreme weather events shut down roads, cause utility prices to skyrocket, affect military preparedness, and grind local businesses to a halt.
That’s why I’m focused on making North Carolina a leader in renewable energy – strengthening our economy and helping our planet. It’s also why I’ll push to upgrade our infrastructure – creating good-paying jobs and shoring up our homes, roads, and bridges against natural disasters that are all too frequent here.
There are a lot of actions that we can take, whether it’s investing in clean transportation, expanding clean energy, or retrofitting homes. But what it comes down to is having a Senator who is ready to act.
I’ll be that Senator, and it will make all the difference for Outer Banks communities.
We will publish the other candidates’ answers when they are submitted.