Economy is slowly rebuilding
The world of work is different today than decades ago, the North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker said here Friday night when she addressed the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting.
However, Decker said, North Carolina continues to be a manufacturing state and the industry will be the core of how the economy will recover, "job by job" with small communities being involved.
She said the economy will be rebuilt with "all of us working together."
Decker, who lives in Rutherfordton, encouraged the chamber members and their guests to get involved in the community and the county.
"Think about where you are and capitalize on that," Decker said. "You are one of the greatest assets to bring people here," she said.
Decker told the group, "There is no stopping what we can do, if we capitalize on what we have here."
"Rebuilding is slow but it will be steady," she said of the state's economy that has added 9,300 new jobs since January.
"We have talked about tax reform and it's important and (we) are making more things happen that are important to help the small businesses and to help those already in business."
She said in the past state government has overlooked the rural parts of the state.
"There are 22 counties, Rutherford is one of them, that has had double digit unemployment for the past 10 years. That is not acceptable," she said.
She said to attract businesses to the state and to Rutherford County, there must be healthy employees with access to health care; a good educational system; economic development recruiting more infrastructure for growth; art, tourism and culture.
Decker said it is imperative that the quality of life and the environment of North Carolina continue to be positive. "We forget the majority of the world does not live like we do."
She said she is always interested in why people come to North Carolina from other states. "Someone told me the other day, "I liked it here'. That goes a long way."
Decker said as she travels across the state she is proud to talk about Doncsater, the Women Roofers, and other people doing so much for less fortunate. She said she enjoys talking about Facebook's location in Forest City.
"There are two economic engines in North Carolina, Raleigh and Charlotte and they are number one and number four in the faster growing cities," Decker said.
She said North Carolina is a state of small towns like Ellenboro, Bostic and Mooresboro.
"We're a state of 100 rural counties," she said.
Rutherford County's struggle with the demise of textile and furniture manufacturing industry began earlier than some areas of the state, Decker said.
She said the economy will recover, "But we will not see textiles coming back as they were. It will look difefrent and it will feel different," she said.
Decker said the attraction for national call centers and data centers to locate here is positive. "Build on what you have here," Decker said.
She said young people are returning to the county and to the mountains to "run businesses from their homes."
But the young people aren't going to work as employees did years ago. "They will work shorter term jobs, different jobs from home."
She said in years past parents told children not to come back to the western part of the state to work in the mills, while in the eastern part of the state parents told children not to come back and work in the fields.
But today's young people are coming back to the farm and are becoming more interested in agriculture.
She said the state has the opportunity to be at the epicenter again with its agriculture due to the state's rich soil.
"Everybody in the world needs food," she said.
She said there is opportunity for manufacturing to return to the state, but different than before.
She recently met with 15 of WalMart's top suppliers wanting to bring their manufacturing businesses back to North Carolina from overseas.
She encouraged the exporting of products from Rutherford County and the state to other parts of the world.
Decker, whose department also oversees the tourism industry, said tourism is a $14 billion industry. "That's what kind of industry we want."
She said the North Carolina Film Industry will continue to be strong in the state because of what it does for the state and small towns. "Just ask Chimney Rock and Lake Lure about the film industry and what it does for their places," referring to the blockbusters, Last of the Mohicans in Chimney Rock Park and Dirty Dancing in Lake Lure.
Decker publicly thanked and recognized the work of the Economic Development Director and the Commission and Isothermal Community College, in continuing to recruit new workers and train them.
Chamber of Commerce Director Clark Poole said the chamber was honored to have Decker to address its annual meeting.
"There are a lot of things happening in our state and county and that was exhibited Friday night at the dinner."
He said there are a lot of people involved in business and industry in the county. "We are all trying to pull together, not just the jobs but all of us coming together."