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Eastern North Carolina (sometimes abbreviated as ENC) is the region encompassing the eastern tier of North Carolina. It is known geographically as the state's Coastal Plain region. Primary subregions of Eastern North Carolina include the Fayetteville Metropolitan Area, the Lower Cape Fear (Wilmington Area), the Sandhills, the Inner Banks and the Outer Banks. It is composed of the 41 most eastern counties in the state. Large cities include Fayetteville, Greenville, Jacksonville, and Wilmington. In 1993, the State Legislature established seven regional economic development organizations and three of these serve eastern North Carolina - Northeast North Carolina Commission (covering 16 counties), North Carolina's Eastern Region (representing 13 counties surrounding North Carolina's Global TransPark), and North Carolina's Southeast Commission (assisting 11 counties).
Located east of the piedmont and west of the Atlantic Ocean, Eastern North Carolina contains very few major urban centers. Greenville is close to the region's geographic center. Fayetteville is the largest city in the region, followed by Wilmington and Greenville.
Eastern North Carolina is roughly made up of the 40 easternmost counties in North Carolina. Generally, the region denotes all of the state's counties east of, and including, Interstate 95. The region is further divisible into three geographic sections: the Southeast, Inner Banks and the Outer Banks.
During the colonial era of American History, the East was the dominant region of North Carolina in both government and commerce. Around the end of the eighteenth century, however, such dominance shifted to the Piedmont center of the state.
The region is dotted with universities. There are five public universities and seven private institutions in the region. The largest institute is East Carolina University. The four other public universities are Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and University of North Carolina at Wilmington. The seven private institutions are: Barton College, Campbell University, Chowan University, Methodist University, Mount Olive College, North Carolina Wesleyan College, and Mid-Atlantic Christian University.
The area is also served by 23 community colleges. The two-year institutes are: Beaufort County Community College, Bladen Community College, Brunswick Community College, Cape Fear Community College, Carteret Community College, College of the Albemarle, Coastal Carolina Community College, Craven Community College, Edgecombe Community College, Fayetteville Technical Community College, James Sprunt Community College, Johnston Community College, Lenoir Community College, Martin Community College, Nash Community College, Pamlico Community College, Pitt Community College, Roanoke-Chowan Community College, Sampson Community College, Sandhills Community College, Southeastern Community College, Wayne Community College, and Wilson Technical Community College.
Eastern North Carolina is served by two main interstate highways and a number of U.S. routes.
The mainstays of the economy still reside in agriculture and defense sectors for most of the east, however it is changing. On the coast, marine trades (port activities and boat building), retirees, and tourism are the economic drivers. In North Carolina's Eastern Region, several industrial sectors are contributing to growth: aerospace, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing. Aerospace activity is spread throughout the region: Kinston (host of the Global TransPark that has attracted Spirit AeroSystems, Commerce Overseas Corporation, Spatial Integrated Systems, Delta Private Jets, and several logistics firms), Goldsboro (AAR Cargo & Mobility Systems), Havelock (Fleet Readiness Center East - a Navy MRO), Rocky Mount (Honeywell and EATON), and Wilson (Kidde Aerospace). Education (East Carolina University), health care (Vidant Health), and financial services and the major employers in the Greenville Metro Area, but the life science sector (R&D as well as manufacturing) is also a significant employer.
The local government of Eastern North Carolina is served by seven of the 17 North Carolina Councils of Government. They include the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments, Mid-Carolina Council of Governments, Lumber River Council of Governments, Cape Fear Council of Governments, Eastern Carolina Council of Governments, Mid-East Commission, and Albemarle Commission.
Eastern North Carolina is by and large an impoverished area. Nearly 21 percent of people live in poverty in this region. Outsourcing of textile manufacturing jobs along with other manufacturing jobs has caused unemployment in the area to increase particularly in the northeastern area of the state. Many areas of Eastern North Carolina are experiencing little economic growth; however, areas such as Greenville (Pitt County) are growing rapidly due the location of East Carolina University and its associated medical facilities.
Eastern North Carolina is located in the coastal plain region of the eastern seaboard of the United States and has relatively flat land that is primarily used for farming. The Outer Banks and Inner Banks are comparable to the tidewater region of Virginia in terms of land. However, the barrier islands of the Outer Banks are highly unique.
Eastern North Carolina boasts unique outdoor recreational opportunities. Hunting and fishing are excellent in this area of North Carolina. The presence of large areas of farmland helps support extremely high populations of game animals such as deer, turkey, and duck. Lake Mattamuskeet boasts some of the best migratory waterfowl hunting in the state and region. The Great Dismal Swamp located in the Northeastern part of North Carolina is renowned for its waterfowl as well. The rivers in this area also see strong runs of migrating fish. The Roanoke River is known for its striped bass fishing in the spring months of the year along with shad fishing opportunities.
Eastern North Carolina generally consists of 42 counties, which when combined form a total regional area of roughly 9,700 square miles (25000 square km). The counties commonly included in the region are as follows:
Eastern North Carolina communities in the region include: