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Interview with Denny Bucher, Craven County commissioner on the county's economic development strategy

Craven County Commissioner Denny Bucher sat down for an interview with PRE's Ryan Shaffer on Feb. 28, 2023 to discuss the county's economic strategy post-pandemic.

Before the Board of Commissioners, Denny Bucher served as a New Bern City Alderman and was part of the Craven 100 Alliance’s effort to revitalize downtown New Bern, and as a former businessman, he says he brings a different perspective to the board.

"One of the main reasons I ran for Commissioner was that I saw boards who didn't think like business people, both on the city and here," Bucher said. "As a business person, you you don't make an investment unless you see a return. Well, when you're in government, you don't necessarily have that same mindset."

He said a commissioner’s first term is mostly getting a handle on how the county operates and understanding its needs. Bucher says his second term is about being more proactive. Top of his list are what the county could do with the recently purchased Sudan Shriners building in Downtown New Bern and investments in the airport.

"I'm excited about the the airport and the fact that we are pushing ahead to try to put some businesses at the airport," he said.

Bucher sees the Coastal Carolina airport as a critical engine to economic growth in the area. The County has announced a series of upgrades, including a runway extension to accommodate larger aircraft, a terminal expansion, a fire facility located nearby and now hangars that take you directly from the terminal to the plane. The airport took some hits during the pandemic. Before, Delta and American Airlines had routes to New Bern, but during the pandemic, Delta dropped out.

"It's a real concern because if companies of any size want to locate here, they need an airport. They need to be able to fly out, go visit their customers, they need to be able to bring their customers in," Bucher said. "So, the airport is a critical part of this country's health, and I as a Commissioner will continue to support whatever initiatives we need to do to keep that airport healthy."

The Craven County industrial park is seen as one of the county’s primary economic drivers and job creators. It’s home to 20 companies, including Bosch, Moen and Chatsworth Products, which employ over 1,200 people combined. Over the last five years, nine companies have opened at the park, bringing in 200 jobs. With the space running out at the park, the County is looking to build a second park.

"Our next goal is to is to develop another industrial park somewhere in the county," he said. "We have to do that, and we're already we're already starting the looking process.

As for what business they seek to bring into the area, Bucher says the strategy moving forward is to diversify the business and manufacturing sectors in the area by attracting smaller companies and reducing dependence on just a handful of major employers. That strategy is informed, in part, by supply chain issues caused by the pandemic.

"I don't think it's likely that we're going to land another Bosch or Moen," Bucher said. "So, our focus is to bring in a number of smaller businesses. If you can bring in companies that employ from 25 to 100 employees serving a variety of industries that's the way we want to grow. We're not looking for home runs right now. We want to make a lot of singles and by doing that we can grow."

Ryan is an Arkansas native and podcast junkie. He was first introduced to public radio during an internship with his hometown NPR station, KUAF. Ryan is a graduate of Tufts University in Somerville, Mass., where he studied political science and led the Tufts Daily, the nation’s smallest independent daily college newspaper. In his spare time, Ryan likes to embroider, attend musicals, and spend time with his fiancée.