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Written by Charlotte Smith

Photos by Kenneth Armstrong

The Southeastern Economic Development Commission held its 54th Annual Meeting at Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery on Monday, April 25. The SEDC is the designated U.S. Economic Development Administration Economic Development District in our region and assists member counties and other eligible applicants in applying for federal grant funds that help generate new jobs, protect existing jobs and stimulate economic growth.  SEDC member counties are Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, New Hanover, Pender, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, and Scotland counties.

Pamela Bostic, the Executive Director of SEDC, welcomed board members, economic development allies, business and political leaders from the service area to the meeting with a reminder, “SEDC strives to create new jobs, retain existing jobs, and stimulate economic and industrial growth in southeastern North Carolina.”

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Scott T. Hamilton, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Golden LEAF Foundation, was the guest speaker. The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to receive a portion of North Carolina’s funding from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers. Hamilton explained North Carolina is the only state with an independent nonprofit working to increase economic opportunities for rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grantmaking, collaboration, innovation, and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.   

Golden LEAF provides lasting impacts to tobacco-dependent, economically distressed, and rural areas of the state. The nonprofit has helped create 65,000 jobs, over half a billion dollars in new payrolls, and more than 85,000 workers trained or retrained for higher wages. Over two decades, Golden LEAF has funded 1,970 projects totaling $1.1 billion. 

Hamilton also noted the scholarship opportunities the nonprofit provides to students. Since its inception in 1999, The Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded more than $55.2 million in scholarship funding to more than 25,000 students. To find out more about Golden LEAF Foundation visit their website at: goldenleaf.org.

After Hamilton’s presentation, Bob Taylor, SEDC Disaster Recovery Coordinator, covered old business about hurricane recovery assistance and COVID Pandemic Recovery and resiliency. According to Taylor’s report, funding applications for Hurricane Matthew resulted in $13.4 million in funds awarded to communities in the SEDC region. After Hurricane Florence, $21.3 million was awarded for recovery assistance in the SEDC region. Last but not least, there has been $1.51 million awarded for economic resiliency initiatives due to the COVID Pandemic and $10.26 million in funding is pending. 

Mark Ward, SEDC Interim Chairman, gave a director’s report. According to Ward, since 1968, SEDC’s total investment awards in the designated economic development district total is $122,618,692. This year, EDA invested $1,575,000 in Pender County for the natural gas fuel generator project that has created 50 jobs and saved 30 jobs. The project also had $8 million in private investment leveraged. Ward also announced that SEDC created a one-time Product Development Grant for its member counties and awarded $110,000 for projects to support economic development projects.    

Before the meeting closed, Angie Stewart, SEDC Secretary-Treasurer, said she had the new board officer nominations from the nominating committee. Mark Ward of Scotland County was nominated as chairman, Gary Lanier of Columbus County was nominated as vice-chairman, and Chuck Heustess of Bladen County was nominated as Secretary-Treasurer. The nominations for the board election passed unanimously. 

The SEDC office in Elizabethtown is located at 707 West Broad Street. To find out more visit their website at: sedcnc.org.

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