ROCKINGHAM – On Tuesday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper officially appointed former Rockingham Mayor and North Carolina Senator Gene McLaurin to a seat at the table of the state’s Economic Development Partnership (EDP).
According to McLaurin, several years ago the state made the decision to create a public/private partnership for economic purposes, and business recruiting staff was moved out of the Department of Commerce and into the partnership.
McLaurin has become one of 17 members who will sit on the board to oversee operations.
According to the EDP’s website, the group’s objectives are to help North Carolina businesses relocate or expand, offer performance-based incentives, help companies find available sites, offer small businesses support and international expansion for those that wish to pursue it.
The EDPNC will contract with the N.C. Department of Commerce, and McLaurin sees this as a way to better recruit new businesses.
“If they work for the partnership instead of the government, they may have some incentive plans for successful recruiting plans that they might not be able to go through typical government salary participation,” McLaurin said.
Of the 17 on the board, McLaurin is the second of Cooper’s selections, with another seven to be appointed by the Governor, four by the Speaker of the House and four by the President Pro Tem of the House. Each member’s term will rotate every four years.
As far as McLaurin himself, he knows why Cooper chose him for the board:to help businesses in rural areas such as Richmond County.
“I’ll help set policy for the partnership,” McLaurin explained of his responsibilities. “And also represent the state and help guide the partnership towards the type of things they need to be focused on as far as business recruitment, expanding existing businesses and marketing of tourism dollars.
“My focus will be on rural economic development,” he continued. “That’s what Governor Cooper and I have talked about numerous times during (Cooper’s) campaign.”
McLaurin went on to say that because he and Cooper have known each other for 20 years, they share a lot in common when it comes to specific interests of economic development in rural communities.
“We’ve had a lot of growth in urban communities, but one of the things I’ve learned through my public service is that North Carolina has one of the largest rural populations of any state in the country,” McLaurin said.
“We have an economy that for many years was textiles, manufacturing, but many of those jobs have gone overseas so what we’ve got to do is retrain the workforce and focus on the building blocks of education, roads, sewers and infrastructure.”
Business acumen was another thing that attracted Cooper in picking McLaurin for the economic board, as the former mayor is currently the president of Swink-Quality Oil and Gas Company, and managed the Richmond County branch of the international manufacturing company Total Lubricants for 27 years.
“What I hope I can bring to the table is a good understanding of what international companies are looking for if their looking to relocate,” McLaurin added. “Governor Cooper has said this many times, and I really want to emphasize this. He wants a North Carolina that works for everyone. Not just in the urban communities but in the rural communities.
“I’ll have a seat at the table with the Department of Commerce officially and economic development officials to make sure that our rural communities are getting a fair shake and are being promoted properly.”
Friday is McLaurin’s first official day on the new job after joining orientation on Wednesday with Chris Chung, CEO of the partnership.
“This part of North Carolina, where I’ve lived and worked and where home is, I think it’s important what we stress the many positives we have for new job creation,” McLaurin said.
“We’re in a good position, but we could put more light and more focus on our rural communities,” he concluded. “I know the governor is already at work on that. That’s one of his top priorities, and he’s asked me to make sure the partnership is also aware of the many positives about doing business in rural North Carolina.”