Home Local News McLaurin tapped by Cooper to chair Economic Development Partnership of N.C.

McLaurin tapped by Cooper to chair Economic Development Partnership of N.C.

Former Rockingham mayor Gene McLaurin has been named chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. He was first appointed to the board in 2017.
Contributed photo

ROCKINGHAM — With four decades in the business world, Gene McLaurin has been appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper to serve as chairman of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina.

The announcement was made Friday in a list of recent appointments to boards and commissions.

McLaurin was appointed to the EDPNC board in 2017 and has served as vice chairman for about a year and a half.

EDPNC was formed in 2014 while McLaurin was serving in the state Senate.

McLaurin said he was approached by then-Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker to help secure Democratic support of the public-private partnership, which was initiated by Republicans.

“I said, ‘Yes I will. I think it’s a good plan that makes sense to use private-sector practices trying to grow our state and expand,’” McLaurin recalled in a telephone conversation early Friday afternoon.

When Cooper was elected as governor, McLaurin said he told him “‘that’s an area I’d be interested in serving,’ and so he appointed me.”

The board comprises nine appointments from the governor, including the chair, and eight from the legislature — four each from the speaker of the House and president pro tem of the Senate.

“This demonstrates Governor Cooper’s strong commitment to rural North Carolina,” McLaurin said of his appointment, pointing out that the two previous chairs were from Charlotte. “I think that’s a pretty big deal.”

He said the bi-partisan board works very closely together: “There is no partisanship on this board.”

EDPNC is contracted with the N.C. Department of Commerce and has five primary functions:

  • Business recruitment
  • Business expansion
  • Small business counseling
  • International exports
  • Tourism

The partnership, led by CEO Chris Chung, operates outside of state government, but relies on Commerce and the legislature when it comes to incentives.

McLaurin said EDPNC has a good working relationship with both the governor and the Republican-led legislature.

“When it comes time to provide incentives, they have to work together on that and I’ve never known there to be a dispute over trying to help companies come to North Carolina or expand …,” McLaurin said. “They work very well together and that’s credit to both the legislature and the executive branch.”

The governor, McLaurin said, plays a key role in “helping companies understand how positive it is for them to invest in North Carolina and he has proven to be very effective.”


North Carolina was named 2020 State of the Year by Business Facilities magazine. 

According to a January press release, the state announced plans for more than 20,000 new jobs and more than $6 billion in investment — the highest amount of investment in a decade.

“I never thought we would do as well as we did during the pandemic,” McLaurin said. “But we did.”

McLaurin entered the business world in 1980 and spent 27 years at TOTAL and has been at Quality Oil — which has locations in Rockingham, Laurinburg, Wadesboro and Lumberton — since 2007, where he serves as president.

He was also previously elected to eight terms as Rockingham mayor.

“We are fortunate to have one of our own, Gene McLaurin, leading our state’s economic development efforts,” said Martie Butler, economic developer for the county. “This is great news for Richmond County and all of rural N.C. We offer our congratulations and look forward to continuing our great partnership with EPDNC.”

The governor also appointed Samuel Bowles of Charlotte to the board. Bowles is a managing director at New Republic Capital, the investment advisory arm of New Republic Partners and previously worked at Morgan Stanley in the mergers and acquisitions group in New York, according to a press release.

Cooper has made at least a dozen appointments involving individuals from Richmond County since taking office. They include:

  • Sheriff James Clemmons – N.C. Juvenile Justice Planning Committee, Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice
  • Monty Crump – N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission(now serves as vice chair)
  • William R. “Bill” Webb – Rural Infrastructure Authority of N.C. Commerce
  • Dr. John Stevenson, Melanie Carroll and Robert Lee Wallace – Richmond Community College Board of Trustees
  • Dr. Cindy Goodman – N.C. School of Science and Math Board of Trustees
  • Ken Goodman – N.C. Industrial Commission
  • Steve Futrell and Dawn Layton – Superior Court
  • Bryan Land – N.C. Forestry Advisory Council
  • Maddie Ash – N.C. Respiratory Care Board
  • Neil Robinette – N.C. Interagency Coordinating Council for Children from Birth to Five with Disabilities

Previous articleHamlet basketball teams earn road wins over Cordova
Next articleMelinda Kaye Hardy Earley
Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.