By Charlotte Smith
The Bladen County Committee of 100, Inc. heard from North Carolina Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson at their annual meeting this week held at Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery in Elizabethtown, NC. Overcoming obstacles and making forward progress was the key point of the evening.
Chairman of the Committee of 100, Hayes Petteway, gave opening remarks. The non-profit has been unable to meet the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Petteway commented on how nice it was for the ballroom to be filled with dignitaries and business leaders supporting the organization.
Bladen County Economic Development Director Chuck Heustess gave an update on activities in the area. The Committee of 100 contributed $15,000 for the Elizabethtown Downtown Business Incubator and $15,000 for the Incubator V in the Elizabethtown Industrial Park. Heustess reported success with both locations.
The Downtown Revitalization Project in Bladenboro is underway. Heustess reported the “New Town Square” in Bladenboro has all bays except one reserved. There will be a restaurant, a bakery, a beautician, a barber, a healthcare-related project, a retail store, and a small business area in the state-of-the-art facility.
Heustess spoke about “Project Bob,” plans that are in the works that may bring about 300 jobs with an average salary of $50,000 to Bladen County. “We are super excited about that opportunity,” Heustess stated, “and hopefully, over the next few months, you all will learn a lot more about it.”
There are about four other projects in the works, according to Heustess.
One last item mentioned by Heustess was the “Live, Work, Play” project the County of Bladen and the Town of Elizabethtown are working on together. Heustess explained that the project’s plan is to construct housing in the Industrial Park area, a Cape Fear Valley Urgent Care, a new Cape Fear Vineyard restaurant, and a distillery, in addition to other businesses.
According to Heustess, housing is one of the biggest concerns for Bladen County, which is what the Economic Development Commission for the County is working towards addressing. “It’s not one of the things Economic Development typically does, but you can’t be typical when you have a-typical goals,” Heustess said before handing the stage to Lt. Governor Robinson.
Watch a video of the meeting on our YouTube channel linked below.
Lt. Gov. Robinson gave his childhood testimony before addressing key needs in the state. He spoke about America’s work ethic and citizens being ready to work.
“One of the greatest mistakes we’ve made in the recent past is when we paid people to stay home from work,” Lt. Robinson exclaimed, “The American work ethic is one of our strongest powers in this nation! People in America like to work. We don’t like to be lazy. We like to be useful.”
“Elected officials,” Robinson pointed out, “need to do everything they can to ensure that when they are ready to work, there is a place to work; when they are ready to start a business, there is a way to start a business. Those are the opportunities we need to be giving to people.”
“I’ve also seen the way that bad policy destroys those possibilities,” Robinson said. He mentioned NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the furniture industry jobs lost here in NC due to the agreement.
Lt. Governor Robinson said, “It is one of the reasons I am determined as an elected official to stand up for American workers!”
He pointed out the owners of Anthem Display in the room and reiterated, “At work, down here in this County, putting people to work! That’s the kind of stuff I love to see, folks, and that’s the kind of stuff I want to continue to see.”
Then Robinson pivoted, “We have a problem in this country right now… We are too divided!” Then he provided the answer, “Here is something we can all agree on… We all need to eat. We all need to work. We all need to have our children at school, safe and secure, learning what they need to be successful.”
According to Robinson, finding common ground and working together will unite Americans and strengthen us. “That’s what it is going to take to truly move this State forward,” Robinson stressed. The audience rose to their feet to give Robinson a standing ovation as he said, “God bless this great state of North Carolina.”
Before the meeting adjourned, the following individuals were approved for the Committee of 100’s board of directors. Linda Carey, Rufus Lloyd, Wilbur Ward, and Hayes Petteway were elected for another one-year term. Ashley Dowless, Wesley Campbell, William Brisson, and Pat DeVane, were elected for another two-year term. Dennis Troy, Paul Evans, Leon Martin, and Dana McDuffie were re-elected for another three-year term.
The Committee of 100 is a non-profit development corporation that partners with the Bladen County Economic Development Commission to help ensure that sustained economic growth occurs within the County.