We dug as deep as we could, but hit rock right below the surface. We know no more now than we did when we put together a story that was published on Saturday.
Two regional newspapers first reported on “Project Top Drawer” after Columbus County’s economic development director spoke to that county’s Board of Commissioners, urging the board to act quickly on possible incentives or the industry would end up elsewhere. Gary Lanier told the Columbus commissioners the industry was considering sites in Columbus, Scotland or Robeson counties, but also mentioned Rocky Mount as a contender. Lanier said that proximity to the Wilmington port was important to the industry.
The Robesonian contacted this county’s economic development director, Greg Cummings, who told us what we knew he would — nothing. Cummings’ job, and he did it well, was to remain silent so that his words didn’t jeopardize for this county its chance of bringing the industry here.
Although we hope Robeson County wins this race, in this instance close does count. Being runner-up to either Columbus or Scotland counties would be a rewarding consolation prize as more than a few of the 1,100 jobs in a neighboring county would be filled by people who live in Robeson County.
That said, we have much of what any industry would want — plenty of land and water; major highways heading in all four directions, including to Wilmington; a hospital; a university and community college; an airport; and too many people idled and looking for work.
If such an industry were to pick Robeson County, then about 25 percent of those who are unemployed in Robeson County could return to work, which would essentially put us at almost full employment. The company’s investment would also generate significant tax revenue for our cash-strapped county.
We know next to nothing about this company, but we are sure of this: The jobs and the tax revenue it promises would cure much of what ails Robeson County.