Overview and History

New Bern

The river city is a treasure hunt where gems are revealed in walking pretty streets, noticing historic markers and talking with the people in their gardens and on their porches.

Downtown New Bern sits on a point of land where the rivers meet, now the site of Union Point park, the city’s major celebration spot for events such as the Christmas flotilla, Neuse River Days and the Fourth of July. In 1979 local government gave Swiss Bear Downtown Revitalization Corp — a nonprofit corporation of civic leaders — the authority and responsibility to capitalize on the potential of the failing downtown area.

Today, art galleries, specialty shops, antiques stores, restaurants and inns have resurrected downtown and the waterfront into a social hub. Improvements are continuously underway. Built and dedicated in 1995 through the efforts of Swiss Bear, James Reed Lane is a downtown mini-park and pedestrian walk-through on Pollock Street across from historic Christ Church. Private restoration efforts return many of the downtown buildings to their turn-of-the-last-century elegance.

Economic Profile

While there are no military bases within New Bern's city limits, commerce and industry in New Bern receive strong support from the presence of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, one of the largest Marine Corps air stations in the world. Additionally, the Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) East in Havelock provides a second boost as one of six aeronautical maintenance, engineering and logistics support facilities in the Navy and one of the largest civilian employers in eastern North Carolina. Managed by Marine officers, the facility has a work force of about 3,700 employees, most of whom are civilian. FRC East refurbishes a variety of military aircraft and provides emergency repair and field modification teams to do repair work on aircraft unable to return to the center.

There are many Industries in New Bern, particularly near the Craven County Industrail Park, however, as a whole the larger industries are spread out and include Weyerhaeuser, Hatteras Yachts, BSH Home Appliances Corporation, Moen Incorporated and Maola Milk and Ice Cream. Weyerhaeuser grows and harvests timber and processes it in a huge pulp mill just outside New Bern. The company employs up to 610 people and owns more than 500,000 acres in eastern North Carolina. Hatteras Yachts builds luxury watercraft in its New Bern plant. BSH Home Appliances has more than 1,200 workers in New Bern, manufacturing dishwashers, washers and dryers, cooktops, free-standing ranges and built-in ranges. A producer of plumbing fixtures, Moen has about 750 employees. Maola Milk and Ice Cream Co. has about 240 workers. Other companies include Chatsworth Products, Inc. (CPI), Progress Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas and Aylward Enterprises. Large non-industry employers in New Bern include New Bern-Craven County Schools, Craven County government, CarolinaEast Health Systems and the City of New Bern.

Several groups encourage and support new businesses in New Bern and facilitate economic growth in the area.

The New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce, 316 S. Front Street, (252) 637-3111, represents the interests of the local business community in the regional, state and national government arenas. It also offers networking and professional opportunities, as well as numerous programs and events designed to promote the businesses of its members.

Swiss Bear Downtown Revitalization Corp., 316 S. Front Street, (252) 638-5781, is a private, nonprofit group organized in 1979 to spearhead and coordinate the revitalization and redevelopment of downtown New Bern and its waterfront. Creating  public-private partnerships and developing fund-raising strategies and long-range urban development plans has led to the investment of more than $70 million for the rehabilitation and construction of new commercial buildings and major public improvements, plus the creation of hundreds of jobs. As a result, tourism is now a major industry in New Bern.

The Craven County Economic Development Commission is responsible for encouraging manufacturing and development, especially to the county-owned, 519-acre Craven County Industrial Park straddling U.S. Highway 70 about 5 miles west of New Bern. The park features an incubator facility offering office and manufacturing space to new manufacturers. Industrial sites vary in acreage. The Economic Development Commission welcomes new businesses and the expansion of existing businesses into the industrial park or into the county. Contact the Craven County Economic Development Commission, 100 Industrial Drive, New Bern, NC 28562, (252) 633-5300. Other sites and buildings are available in Craven County as well.

The Small Business Center at Craven Community College offers workshops, seminars and group study sessions addressing the needs of small business owners. Also provided is one-on-one counseling and specialized employee training. Resource centers are available at both the New Bern and Havelock campuses and feature free computer and internet access, specialized software, multimedia tools, books, magazines and other business-related materials. For more information, contact the Small Business Center Director, Craven Community College, 800 College Court, New Bern, NC 28562, (252) 638-7353.

Volunteers with the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) Down East Chapter 577 are available to those calling (252) 633-6688. SCORE provides free counseling and low-cost workshops to promote the formation, growth and success of small businesses in Craven, Beaufort, Lenoir, Jones, Pamlico, Pitt and Greene counties.

Demographics and Statistics

New Bern's population during the 2010 Census was 126,802, a 12 percent increase over the previous 10 years. Median age is 39 in a fluid ethnic mix including English, Irish, German, Scottish, French, African American, Hispanic and Asian. Approximate racial mix is 80 percent Caucasian, 20 percent African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American. The closest large city (population over 200,000) is Raleigh. Median home value is $144,500. In 2010 Craven County had a per capita personal income of $41,000. 

Elevation above sea level rises from 15 to 30 feet over 3 miles. The area of the town is 25.8 square miles with an average of 1,107 people per square mile.

With coordinates 35 degrees 6' 33" N, 77 degrees 4' 9" W and at the confluence of two rivers, just over 30 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, New Bern's climate is moderate. January temperatures average 35 degrees; July temperatures average 90 degrees. Sunny days average 235 annually, rainfall 55 inches, snowfall 2 inches.

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