The Greenville City council along with members of the Greenville community, came together Friday night for a city planning meeting centered on ways to foster partnerships between East Carolina University and the city.
Jay Golden, ECU’s vice chancellor of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, gave a presentation to members of the Greenville community and Greenville City Council suggesting ways ECU and the city can improve growth and change outside perceptions.
“My focus is really on trying to think through and develop partnerships so that we can accelerate the growth of ECU and eastern North Carolina,” Golden said.
ECU’s upcoming student enrollment projections have been around 35,000 students. To prepare for this increase, the university is actively recruiting research intensive faculty, looking to focus more on economic development and creating jobs, according to Golden.
“Our vision is laid out by our chancellors’, that we are going to be “America’s Next Great University”, and by that, we don’t mean we’re going to be Stanford or MIT,” Golden said.
Instead, Golden said ECU is working to become a role model for other universities by showing that economic change can attract more people to the region. Golden said he wants ECU and Greenville to have all the amenities and structures to support a system like that. He also said ECU is working on an ‘export leaf tobacco warehouse’ in the Greenville Tobacco Warehouse Historic District to support the big economic changes that are coming to Greenville.
“That building is 75,000 square feet (and) we’re going to do some modifications and we think we can get it up to about 90,000 square feet,” Golden said.
Golden said the building has yet to be started, because ECU has not narrowed down a developer yet.
Another project ECU is working on is a venture program to provide students with jobs after graduation in order to help facilitate growth in the Pitt County and eastern North Carolina area. Golden said this program is set to launch in the fall.
This new university-wide program will serve those students who come from rural North Carolina and want to stay in Greenville after they graduate, but are lacking opportunities, Golden said.
He also said his goal is to bring students from different educational backgrounds together and have them go through training. With the support of small businesses, Golden hopes to create some type of industry that will promote a positive image of the area.
“Can’t we create something here in eastern North Carolina, where Greenville is at the core of it and advertise it nationally, as the place for people who come and innovate and make their mark as the place where you’ll be supported?” Golden said.
Greenville City Councilwoman Rose Glover proposed the idea of a partnership with ECU and the city to improve less developed community areas to seed future good.
Glover said she believes there are kids in Greenville that think they won’t get ahead unless they leave Greenville and that the city promoting inclusion is the way to start fixing the problems.
“You can’t continue to build, build, build because there is such a thing as diversity and equality,” said Glover.
Darrell Hinnant, who ran for city council District 4 in 2017, agreed there is room to grow in addressing and improving the partnership of ECU and the city of Greenville in the next couple of years.
“The reality is, is that Greenville needs East Carolina and East Carolina needs Greenville,” Hinnant said.
Another main issue Golden and the council agreed on was the poor representation Greenville receives among other areas in the state.
Coming from the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Research Triangle area, Golden said he has often come across people with incorrect and negative perceptions of Greenville, without ever having been here.
“We need to figure out a way to work together to make sure we’re communicating the great things about Greenville because candidly, I don’t think we are,” Golden said.
Councilmember Brian Meyerhoeffer said he also believes there is work to be done in promoting Greenville’s message and story to the public.
“I agree with you (Golden) wholeheartedly,” Meyerhoeffer said. “I think ECU and Greenville both probably failed at telling our story.”