Photos by Kenneth Armstrong
Representatives of 12 North Carolina counties met Wednesday at Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery in the Elizabethtown Industrial Park for the 48th Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Economic Development Commission. U.S. Senator Richard Burr was the keynote speaker.
Pam Bostic, SEDC Executive Director called the meeting to order and Chairman Gary Lanier of Columbus County introduced Senator Burr.
Burr began on an upbeat note telling the delegates, he was “excited about the future of North Carolina.” He added, “there are challenges, but they can be overcome by good leadership.”
Among the challenges, according to the senator, is the need to create jobs and a deal with a $21 billion debt.
Burr said, “technology will drive the future and North Carolina is a leader in the field. Capital is needed to grow the economy.”
Other topics he addressed included: lack of pay increases for many over the past several years, he stressed the economy needed to grow at least at a 4 percent rate. He told the group that he visited another county recently where the owners were concerned about health care and said they may need to roll back to 29 hour weeks to keep their business plan in place because of federal guidelines related to providing health care for employees.
Burr said the U.S. Department of Education had been dismantled, that someone in Washington should not be telling the locals how to run their schools.
He praised the community college system in North Carolina. “No other state has the level of infrastructure” as this state. He did stress there was a need to “fix K-12” so youngsters would not need remedial education when they go to college.
“We need skilled laborers to provide employees for agriculture, manufacturing, welders, electricians.” He also suggested that military retirees are good workers who come with skills.
He mentioned the upcoming election, calling it “weird.”
Burr also spoke briefly about his battle with Apple, and his belief that laws should be applied equally. “We are at the intersection of internet rules of law and we must trust the judges, they are the glue that holds it together.”
He stressed that what we do should be about the future, about our kids and grandchildren. “It’s about building a business for the next 50 years. We should leave it better than we found it and so the next generation can tap into what we leave behind.”
In a short question and answer session, Burr stressed it is less expensive to manufacture in the U.S. than in China. He said the U.S. corporate tax code needs reform.
He was asked about ISIS. The senator is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “ISIS is not something that is going away soon.” He said mistakes were made in not stopping the terrorists in the early stages when they were in Syria and Iraq. Now, they are in 19 countries and reach around the globe. “We need to put together global connections as quickly as possible,” he added, “We are looking at a minimum of a 10 year challenge in the world.”
He said in any 24 hour period, six to eight cities around the globe face danger. He praised the FBI and other law enforcement officials.
Burr is seeking re-election this year to a third six-year term. He served 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives prior to his election to the Senate.
A short business session was held and officers were elected. Gary Lanier of Columbus County was elected chairman, Chuck Heustess was elected vice-chairman and Randall Johnson of New Hanover was elected secretary/treasurer.
SEDC serves 12 counties in southeastern North Carolina and has assisted in securing grants for 164 projects totaling $88 million in the area since 1968.
Bladen Community College and Bladen County has received an EDA grant for $1.3 million during the current fiscal year to construct an Advanced Manufacturing Technology Training Facility.
EDA is a federal program that has been in existence for 50 years.