Even In Uncertain Times, Opportunity Never Sleeps

The nation’s worst economic downturn in three decades is not deterring North Carolina’s Southeast from the task of bringing new jobs and investment to the region. In fact, a reordering of the global economy spells exciting opportunities, regional leaders believe. “While economic times are challenging, we believe the fundamental economic changes now underway in the United States and abroad do offer some specific opportunities for Southeastern North Carolina,” says Jane W. Smith, chairman of North Carolina’s Southeast Commission.

In embracing opportunities in 2009 and beyond, regional development officials intend to highlight the Southeast’s remarkable value, concentrating their marketing efforts on those industries poised for accelerated growth as the global economy emerges from this historic recession. “We are assembling the full complement of our allies and partners from across the public and private sectors whose expertise, financial resources and leadership support are more critical than ever to our region’s success,” reports Ms. Smith, who believes the Southeast Commission and its work have never more crucial than in the current environment. She and other development leaders are working with Congressional officials to draw federal resources into regional economic development.

The U.S. government’s massive stimulus plan is likely to include funds for modernizing the Southeast’s infrastructure and industrial amenities. “We must do all we can to help our communities and citizens find good jobs and turn around the local economy,” says U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre, who represents North Carolina seventh Congressional district. In recent weeks, Congressman McIntyre has hosted a series of roundtables throughout Southeastern North Carolina, hearing first-hand about the economic challenges facing the region and its residents. “The stimulus package that is making its way through the legislative process contains several sources of funding that could be of assistance to economic development organizations,” Congressman McIntyre explains.

In seeking to position the region for success as the global economy regains traction, the Southeast Commission has elevated its leadership profile among communities and businesses. Examples of the Commission’s efforts include facilitating collaboration needed to build a two-county industrial park and for development of the North Carolina International Terminal. Regional officials are encouraging local economic developers to pursue opportunities in bio-fuels and “Green” industry operations, which offer exciting long-term economic potential. “Our abundant lands and pro-business local governments put us in a excellent position for alternative energy ventures,” says Ms. Smith, citing projects in Sampson, Hoke and Robeson counties as ample evidence that the Southeast Region is poised to be a player in the emerging “Green Economy.”