When trustees consider whether or not to sell or trade land at COMtech to the park so that is can be developed, their decision should be based on one thing — what is best for residents of Robeson County.
That is not to say the decision is easy; there are many factors in the equation that need to be considered, and some have not been made public, such as the price that the park would pay for the land, or what would be involved in a land swap.
But what is known is that Ryan Nance, the executive director of COMtech, has clear plans for the land, the private development of a $2 million Business Support Center that he says would immediately create as many as 50 jobs while also serving as an amenity that could make more swift the future development of the park.
RCC, on the other hand, currently has no plans for the land beyond keeping it manicured.
The giant elephant in the room could be politics, and of the tired variety in Robeson County.
RCC trustees, interviewed for a Page 1A story today by staff writer Bob Shiles, weren’t saying much beyond their desire for additional detail, which is the only reasonable position. But there is the hint that this could devolve into an East vs. West, Pembroke vs. Lumberton conversation, one that has been had so often in this county, and rarely to anyone’s benefit.
The conversation could be complicated by the lingering belief held by some that COMtech should have been constructed nearer the county seat, on Interstate 95, and not away from the nation’s most-traveled highway and adjacent to Pembroke. History might one day prove that it was poorly located, but if that is eventually the case, it should not be predestined.
What should not happen is that the college’s interests and COMtech’s interests be pitted against each other. Both are supported mightily by this county’s taxpayers and their missions line up with each other and are not at odds. Their shared quest is to promote this county’s economy, RCC primarily by training students so that they are employable, and COMtech by creating jobs to match those skills.
The great news is that there are literally acres of room to work out a deal, perhaps a compromise, to the benefit of COMtech, the college and the people who depend on both. That will happen only if negotiations are earnest and in good faith, and free from the pollution of politics.