There is reason to be optimistic about Scotland County’s economic future in spite of the current downturn according to regional economic director Steve Yost, who was in Laurinburg Tuesday to speak to the Laurinburg Rotary Club.
Yost, who serves as president of the North Carolina’s Southeast Economic Development Partnership, said that manufacturing is not dead in the area and that there are some “really good, positive things going on” in the region.
“We have seen a leveling off of the manufacturing decline,” Yost said. “We lost the entire textile sector overseas, but it is being replaced by companies in advanced manufacturing.”
Included among those advanced manufacturers is Scotland County filament and yarn manufacturer Service Thread.
Scotland County, in particular, has reason to be optimistic according to Yost.
In addition to its proximity to ports (Wilmington, Charleston, Savannah and Norfolk) and rail transportation, the county also has prepared industrial sites and a business incubator under construction – assets which Yost said are among the “most important ingredients for local success.”
“You have got to have sites with infrastructure already in place and business incubators,” Yost said.
Thanks to the upcoming Small Business Innovation Center and the continuing fight to attract and retain business in the area, Yost said that Scotland County is regarded as “a model to other counties in the Southeast region.”
“Scotland County is also my favorite county to do economic development in,” Yost said.
Yost also noted a number of challenges to development in the region, including a decline in defense spending as well as a decline in spending on economic development.
Scotland County, in particular, will need to continue to do stronger work force development, Yost said.
“60 to 70 percent of jobs in the region over the next decade will not require a four year degree, but will require more than a high school diploma,” Yost said. Certifications through community colleges as well as other adult education courses will be vital to the workforce and for that reason Richmond Community College is of great importance to the future of economic growth in Scotland County.
The largest employer in the region is currently the health care industry, and Yost predicts that will continue to be the case as the population ages.
Addressing an issue with some political heat, Yost said that investment in North Carolina ports will also be “critical for growth in our state and region.”
Thanks to push back from residents, a project to create a new deep water port in the South Port area was a non-starter.
“The anti-port forces down there have been very vocal, and without a new port we are going to have to pump more money into developing Morehead and Wilmington ports.”