Legislators Told of Regionalism's Value

State funding for regional economic development partnerships is vital to ongoing local efforts to create jobs and grow tax-base. That was the message delivered by county economic development directors to members of Southeastern North Carolina’s General Assembly delegation at a February 16th briefing in Raleigh.

“It would be devastating if we didn’t have this resource,” Chuck Heustess told the gathering of state legislators. Heustess, who is executive director of the Bladen County Economic Development Commission, explained that it would be impossible for a rural county such as his to make itself known to all the companies seeking locations. “The website alone is worth what the state puts into the Southeast partnership, along with everything else they do,” Heustess said.

John Swope, economic development director for Sampson County, described the fierce competition that exists in the nation right now for viable industrial projects, making regional marketing programs vital to local development organizations. “North Carolina’s Southeast is out there not just looking for leads, but fighting for leads on our behalf,” said Swope, who chairs the Southeast’s Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

Greg Icard, executive director of the Scotland County Economic Development Commission, told legislators of several specific instances where the Southeast Commission had provided leads, technical assistance and project management support to his county.  NCSE Chairman Jane Smith, who attended the gathering along with several members of the organization’s board, noted that seven of the region’s ten local economic development directors were present at the briefing, which speaks volumes about the Commission’s grassroots support.