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WHQR will host and broadcast four candidate forums as part of the 2012 Election Season in the MC Erny Gallery, 254 N. Front Street, #300.Each forum will feature two local journalists asking prepared questions during the first half of the event. The second portion will be dedicated to questions from voters. A live studio audience will be invited to ask questions during this segment. We'll also use questions sent in from listeners.If you have a question for the candidates, please email us (newsdirector@whqr.org) or submit via Twitter with the #whqrforums hash tag and tell us which slate of candidates you'd like to address. We reserve the right to edit the questions for clarity, brevity, and objectivity. Each question must be addressed to all candidates in a particular race. If you can't attend the live event, Tweet along while you tune in or listen or watch the webcast online at 7 PM each night to hear the candidates! (WWAY will also broadcast the forums live on Time Warner Cable. RTV is channel 106, on ATMC, channel 903, on Charter Cable, channel 145 and over-the-air at 3.2.)Tuesday, Oct. 2, 7 PM- New Hanover County CommissionersJonathan Barfield (Current Vice Chairman)Beth DawsonRobert MurrayDr. Derrick HickeyWoody WhiteRob Zapple Thursday, Oct. 4, 7 PM- NC House District 18Representative Susi Hamilton (D)Louis Harmati (R) Monday, Oct. 8, 7 PM - NC Senate District 9Senator Thom Goolsby (R)Deb Butler (D) Thursday, Oct. 18, 7 PM - NC House District 19 & NC House District 20 NC House District 19Ted Davis, Jr. (Current NHC Commission Chair)Emilie Swearingen (Current Kure Beach Councilwoman)NC House District 20Rick Catlin (Current NHC Commissioner) (R)Tom Gale (D)

NHC Candidates talk economic development at candidates' forum

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Six candidates hoping to win one of three open seats on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners gathered in the WHQR Gallery last night to talk about the county’s economy. 

Sponsored by the Cape Fear Economic Development Council, the candidate forum featured questions from local journalists and audience members.  Vicky Janowski, of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, asked candidates to describe the right approach to economic development – and the role they would play as county commissioner.   WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn reports.   

Jonathan Barfield is the current Vice Chair of the Commission.  Until recently, says Barfield, the county muddled through 17 years without a strategic plan. 

“And my thought is how can you know where you’re going if you have no road document – no visioning plan to get you there?  We took some heat for hiring a consultant to come in and help us with that plan, but it was the right thing to do.  And with that, we discovered that economic development was one of our 8 core values.” 

Derrick Hickey, a Republican candidate and current member of the New Hanover County Board of Education, says development depends on lowering taxes, doing away with unnecessary regulatory burdens, and seeking input from business leaders. 

“What we need to do is to go to all of our businesses.  We’re blessed – we have industry in GE, industry in Corning… we need to ask these businesses that are here right now – what can local government do to help you expand?” 

Democratic candidate Robert Murray says it’s time for the county to play to its strengths – by capitalizing on the tourism-based economy.  His remarks drew some chuckles from the audience.   

“We are a tourist destination.  We try to draw the tourist people in here.  Well, why don’t we have something for them to do?  They go to the beach, they get in the rip currents, and they can’t swim.  So all they do is end up staying in a hotel.” 

Murray proposes bringing a Myrtle Beach style theater to the area and constructing a water park.