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Durham looking at new ways to help lower jobless rate

Posted December 19, 2014

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— Set to open at the start of the new year, construction is in full swing at the new Durham Co-Op Market on West Chapel Hill Street.

"It will function just like a normal grocery store," Leila Wolfrum, the store's manager, said Friday.

The difference: It's owned by people in the community. Any North Carolina resident with $100 can become part owner of the store.

"It was started by a group of Durham residents who wanted to see a grocery store focused on benefitting the Durham community," Wolfum said.

It's benefitting the community by providing healthy local food and jobs to people in the neighborhood and around the city.

"We've put in a lot of effort to make sure people in the immediate area know there are jobs available," Wolfrum said.

Job opportunities like those are what Durham needs, says Kevin Dick, director of the city's Office of Economic and Workforce Development.

Although North Carolina's unemployment rate is now at a six-year low and Durham is outperforming many other counties across the state, Dick says low-income black communities are seeing unemployment rates almost three times as high as white communities.

Dick says his office in partnership with the Durham Chamber of Commerce is working on a series of initiatives to decrease unemployment in those communities.

"We don't have room to be complacent in terms of helping to get people in traditionally disadvantaged communities more prepared and more connected to opportunities."

Dick says nearly 300 more jobs are also coming to the city next year with the arrival of several new downtown hotels. He says they will be a mix of part and full time positions.

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