LUMBERTON — Despite restructuring at the state Department of Commerce and the revamping of the N.C. Rural Center, a top adviser to Gov. Pat McCrory says Robeson County will still get money it needs for infrastructure.
“We know how important this money is to you,” Tony Almeida, the governor’s senior adviser on jobs and the economy, said during his address Tuesday at Robeson County’s annual Industrial Appreciation Dinner. “We’re going to keep Rural Center funds flowing for you to use for your infrastructure.”
Almeida was the keynote speaker at the dinner, an event held each year to provide county officials an opportunity to thank local business leaders for all they do to keep the local economy healthy.
More than 100 people attended the dinner at the Holiday Inn in Lumberton.
Almeida joined McCrory’s administration in January. He previously served as a vice president of Duke Energy.
Almeida said that the McCrory administration is focusing on recruiting businesses to the state.
“We’re all about jobs for North Carolina,” he said. “… This state has such a great heritage of manufacturing. It has a heritage of making, building, creating and growing things. We are going to keep doing that.”
Almeida said that North Carolina is moving to become a business-friendly state.
“Being business friendly is necessary if the state is to compete with others — such as South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee — in recruiting businesses,” he said.
Almeida said tax reform, regulation reform and workforce development are areas of focus for the governor.
“When we came into office North Carolina had the highest personal and corporate tax rates in the Southeast,” Almeida said. “We’re working to get them equal, or less, than other states.”
Government regulations are being reviewed, and when possible done away with, to make it easier for companies to do business within the state.
“North Carolina in the last 10 years has added 15,000 new regulations to the books,” Almeida said.
Almeida said that agribusiness, military and energy are industries ripe for growth.
Almeida cited Robeson County’s success at recruiting new businesses over the past year, calling Greg Cummings, the county’s industrial recruiter, “one of the most dynamic economic developers in the state.”
He also recognized the ongoing efforts that Fairmont Mayor Charles Kemp is making to bring businesses to his town and create jobs.
“When we first took office, he (Kemp) wrote me a long letter telling me what he was doing to recruit jobs for his town,” Almeida said. “He is more persistent and passionate about economic development than any mayor in the state.”
Also during Tuesday’s appreciation event, Mike Miller, senior director of operations for Campbell Soup’s plant in Maxton, was named Robeson County’s “Industrialist of the Year.”
Miller, who serves on the board of directors for the United Way of Robeson County, has held his current position at Campbell Soup since October 2011. Before joining Campbell Soup, Miller held several positions with Proctor & Gamble.
“A business cannot be successful without a good working relationship with the community,” he said. ” … Our future is dependent on how we invest in our community.”
Cummings said after the event that he expects two major business expansions to be announced early in 2014, as well as the announcement of a new business locating in the western part of the county.
“These three businesses will total about $31 million in investment,” Cummings said. “This strengthens our economy and creates jobs … .”