PEMBROKE — Although disappointed that the Robeson Community College board of trustees turned down COMtech Park’s request to sell or trade property the college owns at the park’s entrance so that a Business Support Center can be built, the park’s executive director vows that the center will eventually become reality.
“I’m disappointed, but not discouraged,” Ryan Nance said Wednesday. ” … We’re looking at the alternatives to keep the project going. The politics may eventually play out, but our focus is on jobs and progress for our communities. I’d like to thank the commissioners, COMtech board members and others who are supporting our mission. In many respects, this is only the beginning.”
COMtech officials had requested that the college sell or switch three or four of the seven undeveloped acres it owns near the entrance of the park just off N.C. 711 to provide for 15,000 square feet of “high quality” commercial space adjacent to current RCC and The University of North Carolina at Pembroke facilities offering assistance to entrepreneurs and start-up businesses. Plans for the center included the establishment of businesses that would complement existing businesses at the park. Such businesses could include a print and copy shop, fitness studio, sandwich shop and dry cleaning laundry pickup, according to Nance.
Nance said that he already had the verbal commitment from one private investor to help get the $2 million facility off the ground that would provide for six to 10 new or expanding businesses and create about 50 jobs.
“I’m talking now about alternative sites,” he said.
Ronnie Hunt, chairman of COMtech’s board of directors, also called RCC’s decision “disappointing,” but like Nance said the project will move forward.
“We will find somewhere to put the center,” he said. “The site just won’t be as suitable.”
COMtech officials wanted to locate the Business Support Center on the land owned by RCC because of the highway frontage on N.C. 711 and because the necessary infrastructure is in place. COMtech had agreed to swap land within the park for the real estate if RCC chose not to sell the land.
The Robeson County Board of Commissioners had written a letter to RCC supporting COMtech’s request, according to Ricky Harris, the county’s manager and member of COMtech’s board of directors.
“I’m disappointed by RCC’s decision,” Harris said. “This center would be an economical plus for Robeson County.”
Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic developer and a non-voting member on COMtech’s board of directors, said that a commercial project was already interested in utilizing the land owned by RCC.
“Per my discussion with Ryan Nance, executive director of COMtech Business Park, it was clear to me that a potential commercial project is very interested in coming to COMtech. The project would create up to 40 to 50 jobs and an investment up to $2 million into Robeson County,” Cummings said. “If you look at the overall potential investment for COMtech and Robeson County, this would help further strengthen the local economy which would keep the focus and efforts on job creation and strengthen tax-base revenue.”
The trustees voted unanimously on Monday to turn down COMtech’s request to relinquish control of their property, with some trustees citing the need to hold on to the property in case RCC in the future must expand its presence at the park. Noah Woods, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, a COMtech board member and an RCC trustee, abstained from voting.