Don’t forget us
For many years, the State of North Carolina invested time, effort and money into building infrastructure and increasing economic development in its rural areas.
Not that the urban areas were being neglected but the state had the mentality of making all of its areas beneficial in quality of life.
Rutherford County has already seen what happens when that position changes. Because of new funding formulas, the U.S. 221 project from U.S. 74 to McDowell County is halted as more and more transportation dollars are siphoned to Interstate projects benefitting the corridor between Charlotte and Raleigh.
So much for building up the rural areas of the state.
Now, North Carolina lawmakers have approved a bill giving the terms of the state’s Commerce Department’s contract with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. It is expected Gov. Pat McCrory will sign the measure.
What the contract does is give a private entity Commerce Department functions such as business recruitment and development, international trade and travel and tourism.
What does it all mean for rural areas such as Rutherford County?
That is the big question that no one seems to have an answer.
State officials suggest it will have no bearing on continuing the economic development efforts in the rural parts of the state.
But, it can be assumed the recruitment efforts by the state will lean towards more urban areas as transportation funding has.
The 17-member board is already facing questions, without even having a member appointed to it yet.
State lawmakers have expressed concern about the ability to recruit “good board members” because of reporting requirements in the bill. Additionally, board members won’t get paid and only receive compensation for meals and a travel allowance.
It will be a demanding job and one with no pay.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, told the Associated Press it was “time to pass the partnership legislation” despite concerns raised by other lawmakers. He said those issues can be “re-addressed in the 2015 legislative session.”
Our concern is our rural areas being left in the cold by a partnership likely to be led by more urban-centric individuals.
Our leaders on the state level have to understand economic development needs are not population-based. Every county in the state has people who are willing to and want to work. With unemployment still high, Rutherford County is no different.
This partnership needs to balance the needs of all 100 counties and make every effort to address those needs as best as possible.
By Matthew Clark, for the Editorial Board
The Daily Courier Editorial Board consists of community members Jerry Brewer, Kyle Bingham, Tom Padgett and Cliff Strassenburg as well as Editor Matthew Clark