October 01, 2014
This story was written by William Toler of The Richmond County Daily Journal
HAMLET — Business leaders and government officials mingled Tuesday night at the 17th annual Business and Industry Appreciation dinner.
“It’s our way of saying thank you for their investment that they make in our community,” said chamber President Emily Tucker.
The first hour consisted of casual conversation with attendees drifting through the lobby of Cole Auditorium, snacking on hors d’oeuvres with water, beer and wine from Little River Vineyards before the main course.
This year’s event featured two keynote speakers: Clark Robertson, assistant vice president for regional development at CSX Transportation; and N.C. Secretary of Commerce Sharon Allred Decker.
Decker encouraged those concerned about the economic health of the county to focus on five things: health; education; connectivity; arts, tourism and culture; and quality of life and environment.
In regards to education, Decker said one of North Carolina’s greatest assets is the community college system.
She also stressed the need for young people to be interested in agribusiness and advanced manufacturing, saying those industries were a “big part of North Carolina’s economic future.”
“At the end of the day, economic development is local,” she said, acknowledging the state has a role to play in policy and regulation setting. “Our objective is to help you grow.”
According to Martie Butler, management analyst and economic developer for Richmond County, the county has seen six new projects come through this year.
“Keep in mind, projects can carry on for several years,” she said.
She added that a lot of projects come through existing industry expansion and the N.C. Department of Commerce.
“Local industries are very important to Richmond County and our citizens, Butler said. “These industries give our citizens jobs, contribute to our tax base and they give back to the community in numerous ways.”
Richmond County’s unemployment rate has been on the decline since peaking at 14.6 percent in January 2011.
The latest numbers have the unemployment rate hovering around 8 percent, the lowest it’s been since 2008.
Several new business announcements should see it lowering even more in the future.
Two major announcements this year were for the Enviva wood pellet plant and the move of Affordable Hosiery to the Knit-Rite/Therafirm building in Ellerbe.
Those two projects alone are set to bring 90 jobs to the area.
The average annual wage expected at the Enviva plant is $37,961, seven grand higher than the county’s average annual wage.
This week saw the opening of a new restaurant, Zaxby’s, which hired more than 40 employees.
“We are very proud of our local industries,” Butler said, “and we will do everything we can to continue our business-friendly climate here in Richmond County.”