Lenoir downtown development director to leave for Harnett County
For nearly four years, Nick Dula has worked to bring businesses to Lenoir and revitalize a struggling downtown.
But after next week the city will have to get along without him.
March 14 will be Dula's last day as downtown economic development director. He has accepted the position of economic development director in Harnett County, north of Fayetteville. Dula will head a staff of three.
Dula, 31, a Gamewell native, took his current job with Lenoir in 2010. He called it the realization of a dream he fostered while in high school at West Caldwell High School. When he graduated in 2001, Dula became interested in economic development after seeing his father and other local residents get laid off from furniture and manufacturing jobs.
"I felt like everbody knew somebody that had been laid off," Dula said.
He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, double-majoring in economics and public policy, going on to work with the North Carolina Conference of Black Mayors before returning to Chapel Hill for his master's degree in public administration.
"At Chapel Hill, I really took as many classes as I could in economic development," he said. "I just knew at some point I would want to come back to Lenoir and work in that field."
In 2010, he got the chance and started making a difference, including bringing more businesses and jobs downtown, more than $500,000 in grant funds for downtown development and strengthening a variety of downtown events.
Dula can be credited with helping the Lenoir Business Advisory Board plan its structure and hone its focus, said Mark Transou, vice president at First Citizens Bank in Lenoir and chair of the Lenoir Business Advisory Board.
“Nick has really helped us find the structure that is right for Lenoir,” Transou said.
City Manager Lane Bailey said Dula has left his mark on the city through his work encouraging development, promoting downtown Lenoir and working on special events. Dula was able to expand the downtown’s historic district to encompass the historic Center Theater, qualifying the building for tax credits and increasing the chances of its renovation.
“He’s a very talented individual with a good background,” Bailey said. “The thing we appreciate most is his energy and enthusiasm.”
Dula, his wife, Anomis, and their son, Bryson, who turns 1 on Friday, will be making the transition to Harnett County in the coming weeks. Dula starts work at his new position March 24.
"You only have one home, and Lenoir will always be my home," Dula said. "It's been a privilege serving for them and getting to do some things that hopefully made the community better."