PEMBROKE — Ryan Nance, who has worked as a project manager for the Lumber River Council of Governments for the past two years, has been hired as the new executive director for the Carolina Commerce and Technology Center, better known as COMtech.
The business park, located just outside of Pembroke, has been without a full-time director since Ken Windley, a former Robeson County manager, resigned in October after his salary was cut from $90,000 to $30,000 after the Robeson County Board of Commissioners reduced COMtech’s funding for the current budget year.
Nance will receive a base salary with a chance to increase that through incentives.
“I have a passion for business and change,” Nance, a Lumberton native, said. “I think I can help make a difference in Robeson County. I just see a lot of opportunities here if we can convert them into realities.”
Nance’s hiring by the center’s 10-member board of directors was announced by Tony Normand, the architect of COMtech. Normand has been working with Ronnie Hunt, the board’s chairman and center’s interim director, since January to revamp operations to make COMtech more efficient and profitable.
Normand said that Nance was selected from 21 applicants for the job who came from Elizabethtown, Fayetteville, Laurinburg, and “all over Robeson County.” Five were interviewed by a selection committee from the board of directors, with the committee recommending Nance to the full board.
“I was impressed with his focus on Robeson County,” Normand said. “I was looking for someone who cares about Robeson County. In this job you have to care about the people here.”
Nance, 32, will begin his job at COMtech on April 1. He will have a starting salary of $46,000, with the chance to make significantly more with pay incentives based on his ability to sell land at the park and recruit businesses.
According to Normand, Nance’s performance will be reviewed by the COMtech board every six months, and if he receives no incentives within two years he will be “out of a job.”
“My interest is getting businesses and jobs here,” Nance told The Robesonian. “My interest is in growing our local economy.”
Nance is a graduate of North Carolina State University. He holds a bachelor’s of science degree in Business Management and a bachelors’s of arts degree in Multidisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Environmental Policy and Economics. Currently he is enrolled in an enrichment MBA program at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
Norman, a retired military man and business owner, in the late 1990s began touting the idea of a Robeson County business park that would become the home of technology-focused business, industry, education, training and business incubation. He will stay on as a consultant at COMtech for two more weeks. He left his position as COMtech’s executive director in 2009.
Normand said that with recent restructuring, COMtech is in good shape and “back on track.” Recent changes, he said, include the creation of a landowners association that now has two representatives on the park’s board of directors; a new fee structure for tenants that the current 41 businesses at the park are happy with; and a move back toward the park’s mission of supporting economic development and job creation not just in Pembroke but throughout the county.
“I’ve told everyone COMtech is not about land sales, it’s about jobs,” Normand said. “COMtech’s value is not in land sales. It’s what is developed on the land that leads to jobs.”
Normand is confident there will be new businesses locating at the park soon.
“I have talked with several people who are interested in locating here,” Normand said. “Within six months there will be at least one announcement of land sales that will be bringing in business.”
COMtech began operating in January 2001. Currently the 41 businesses located in the park employ about 1,000 people.