“The state of the city of Laurinburg is good,” said interim City Manager Harold Haywood, speaking during Thursday’s “State of the Community” event at the W.R. Dulin Center.
Haywood was joined by Scotland County Manager Kevin Patterson and Scotland County economic developer Greg Icard in giving a presentation on the state of the local economy. Following their presentations the three also hosted a brief question and answer session.
Sponsored by the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce, the well-attended event shined a positive light the community. More than 60 people attended the presentations.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and no, it’s not the light of a freight train. It’s the light of hope,” said Haywood, who pointed out that the tax burden placed on local businesses and residents by the city is favorable when comparing Laurinburg to similar cities in the state.
During his presentation, Icard highlighted the steady progress that has been made by the county in recruiting and retaining industry.
“We are actually doing much better than some of our surrounding counties,” Icard said. “There is reason for hope and reason to understand that things are going to get better. We are going to move forward with some things that will make the people in this room excited.”
According to Icard, one of the most challenging aspects of economic development is retaining industry that is already in place.
In light of that fact, Icard said that the two expansions announced by businesses already in the county during 2012 were especially impressive. One was by FCC, which announced that they would be moving into the county-owned shell building in 2013, and the other was by Service Thread.
At $57.6 million and with 66 new jobs, Icard said that FCC’s announcement represented “quite a large investment for our county.” According to Icard, it has been more than 15 years since such a large investment was announced.
“Most investments are between five and fifteen million,” Icard said.
Icard recognized Service Thread and its COO Jay Todd, who was in attendance, as a “great example” of the kind of business that the county needs to continue to recruit.
“They’re working really, really hard and doing things differently than other businesses,” Icard said of Service Thread.
Service Thread announced an investment of more than $1 million during 2012 as well as 35 new jobs.
Icard also shared photos of the ongoing construction of the new Small Business Innovation Center off of Highway 401 in Laurinburg. Scheduled to officially open in March, the center was made possible by a partnership between Scotland County, the city of Laurinburg and Richmond Community College.
That center will host an industrial tenant and provide classroom space and educational opportunities to local entrepreneurs. Several RCC staffers will also be moving into the building, which will host Icard’s office as well.
County Manager Kevin Patterson focused on the actual cost of county government for the current year during his address to the assembly.
“It costs every person in the county $1.97 per day. … For this current year Scotland County is raising $25.8 million in taxes,” Patterson said.
Breaking the daily tax burden down by segment, Patterson said that the largest portion of the $1.97 goes to education.
“93 cents per day goes to education,” Patterson said.
Included in that education figure is each of the area public schools as well as the funding that goes toward the school system’s partnership with Richmond Community College and St. Andrews University.
The other broad service groups provided by the county, said Patterson, are public safety and human services – with the smallest segment of the pie going to fund human services.
A number of local government officials attended the 8 a.m. event, including Laurinburg Mayor Tommy Parker and Guy McCook, the chairman of the Scotland County Board of Commissioners.
The morning started with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast.
“We’re going to do a similar type program at the end of the year dealing with education,” said the Chamber’s Allen McLaurin, previewing an event that he said will include representatives of RCC, local grade schools and St. Andrews University.