Of Whirligigs and Gigabits
Close does count. And in the case of Wilson County, residents and businesses can access metropolitan amenities without getting too caught up in the big-city bustle. The county, whose population nears 90,000 residents, is only an hour’s drive to RDU International Airport. But it’s also home to hundreds of sprawling farms, growing businesses and an array of unique local attractions. How many U.S. communities, for example, have their own two-acre Whirligig park?
Wilson County’s agrarian roots run deep. Its productive soils account for much of North Carolina’s production of sweet potatoes, flue-cured tobacco and ornamental plants. It also occupies a storied place in North Carolina banking history as the original home of the Branch Banking Company, known today as BB&T. Now among the largest banks in the southeastern U.S., BB&T maintains a 2,000-person workforce in Wilson County. Its manufacturing prowess is equally impressive: about 22 percent of the county’s well-trained workforce is employed in manufacturing – its most job-rich sector. Its industrial roster includes top global names like tire-maker Bridgestone/Firestone, packaging solutions leader Ardagh Group and Smithfield Packing, the consumer foods legend.
Life sciences is another industry that excels in Wilson County. Among the pharmaceutical companies with major operations there are BD, Merck, Purdue and Sandoz. Together they employ more than 1,000 workers. Like all industries there, biotech companies take advantage of Wilson County’s convenience to the Research Triangle’s vast Knowledge Age resources. But there is more just a half hour east in Greenville, where East Carolina University’s excellent medical school and business outreach services work with companies in the area.
Both CSX and Norfolk-Southern provide mainline rail service through Wilson County. That plus the presence of I-95, I-795 and interstate-quality U.S. Highway 264 puts Wilson County companies within quick reach of workers, suppliers, customers and business partners around the East Coast. North Carolina’s Global TransPark is only 35 miles south, and deepwater ports in Charleston, Norfolk, Morehead City and Wilmington are two to four hours away.
Such formidable multi-modal transportation assets aren’t all that make “Serving the world from Wilson County” more than a catchy slogan. In the City of Wilson, a $35 million fiber optic network accommodates connections of up to a Gigabit per second -- about 100 times faster than the average high-speed Internet link. The first-of-its-kind system in North Carolina, available to all city residents, supercharges information access to and from local government officers, libraries and schools. The initiative gives Wilson proud claim to the title “Gigabit City.”
Along with its technology-rich public schools, local higher education options complement the county’s access to nearby research universities. Wilson Community College offers college-transfer, technical and lifelong learning programs that meet the needs of students and employers. Barton College, a fully accredited liberal arts college founded in 1902, enrolls about 1,200 students across business, behavioral science, nursing and other curricula.
Recreationally, Wilson County residents can play with the best of them. The Barton College Bulldogs compete in NCAA Division II athletics, offering a full calendar of spectator sports events. In fact, the Bulldogs men’s basketball team took home the 2007 NCAA title. Kids enjoy visits to Imagination Station, a 25,000-square-foot interactive science museum in downtown Wilson. Visitors of all ages appreciate the diverse plant life showcased at the Wilson Botanical Gardens. Whirligig enthusiasts from around the globe have discovered Wilson County through its annual Whirligig festival, a weekend-long spectacle that has been voted a “Top 20” event by the 12-state Southern Tourism Society.
Come to Wilson County and give it a whirl!