First Posted: 12/12/2010
LUMBERTON Its been difficult for industrial recruitment the past couple of years, but Greg Cummings, Robeson Countys economic development director, says that a brighter future lies ahead.
Things have started to pick up over the past five months, Cummings said last week. Right now Im working on about seven projects. Thats not saying we are going to get all of these industries in Robeson County. Its just that now that the economy is improving, theres more of an interest from industries in wanting to relocate or expand.
Robeson County on Tuesday held its annual Industrial Appreciation Dinner at the Holiday Inn in Lumberton. The event was attended by about 125 people representing business, government, education and other sectors of the community interested in economic development and economic growth.
The keynote speaker was Steve Yost, executive director of North Carolina Southeast, a regional economic development organization that serves 11 counties. Yost has been involved for 17 years with economic development, and during that time is credited with helping more than 100 companies locate to or expand in Southeastern North Carolina.
It has been a slow year for not just Robeson County, but for the state and nation, Yost said. But things started picking up about four or five months ago. More companies are starting to feel confident that the economy is improving.
Its looking strong, but I dont think we are out of the woods yet. We are getting more inquiries and more companies are visiting the region.
More defense contractors are looking to locate in Robeson and adjacent counties in response to the increased military presence in the Fayetteville area, Yost said.
Between 2001 and 2009, companies in Robeson County did $211 million in military contracts. Thats a significant amount, he said.
During his presentation, Yost emphasized Robeson Countys assets for recruiting industries, such as access to major interstate highways, Fort Bragg and the port at Wilmington; Robeson Community College and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke; and a diversified manufacturing base.
We need to build on the assets we have, Yost said. There are a lot of regions in the United States and internationally that would like to have our tools to build on.
Yost emphasized the importance of two key elements to successful economic development manufacturing and education.
Manufacturing is critical to what we do, he said. A lot of start-up companies play off of manufacturing.
Education is economic development. You cant have one without the other.
During Tuesdays event, the county recognized Steven Con Hunt, plant manager for Tredegar Corporation in Red Springs, as Industrialist of the Year.
Tredegar Corporation, based in Richmond, Va., is a global manufacturer of plastic films and aluminum extrusions. It employs more than 2,000 people at more than 15 locations throughout North America, Europe, Asia and Latin America.
As manager of the Red Springs plant, which employs more than 80 people, Hunt oversees all areas of operations, including safety, quality, manufacturing and cost. Before joining Tredegar in 2005, he worked for such companies as Unilever HPC-NA, WestPoint Stevens – Alamac, and Charles Craft Inc.
Im accepting this on behalf of all of our employees, Hunt said. This is a team effort … Your most important asset in any business is your people.
Hunt received a bachelor of science degree in Chemistry from The University of North Carolina at Pembroke in 1988.