LUMBERTON — Channing Jones has accepted the job of executive director for the Robeson County Office of Economic Development, the point person for bringing new industry and jobs to the county.
Jones, who currently serves as Robeson Community College’s vice president for Workforce Development & Continuing Education, decided to take the job earlier this week. He will begin work as the county’s industry recruiter on May 1. His annual salary will be $105,000.
He replaces Greg Cummings, who announced last year he would retire Dec. 31 but has stayed on in the interim.
The Robeson County native and 1999 graduate of The University of North Carolina at Pembroke brings diverse experience to the job. Jones’ resume´includes work in industry, municipal government and higher education.
Raymond Cummings, chairman of the Robeson County Board of Commissioners, called Jones an excellent choice.
“The county manager made the hire and informed us on Monday that Channing accepted the job,” Cummings said. “I look forward to working with him and the enthusiasm he brings to the job.
“Economic development is our lifeblood, and we strive very hard to bring new industry and help existing industry succeed. I am confident that Channing will do an excellent job for the county.”
At RCC, where he has served since 2011, Jones is responsible for engagement and training for area industry and small businesses. His work at RCC has allowed Jones to develop relationships with many local industry and communities.
As Pembroke’s assistant manager, Jones was responsible for personnel and infrastructure. He currently serves on the Pembroke Town Council.
Jones also has worked at SouthTech Plastics in New Bern, where he rose from research chemist to chief operating officer.
Jones is the son of Randall and Diane Jones, of Pembroke. Randall is the retired CEO of Lumbee River Electric Membership Corporation, and Diane retired from UNCP as vice president of Student Affairs.
“I am looking forward to the challenge, and I hope to serve the county and its citizens well,” Jones said Wednesday. “Recruiting industry to Robeson is a big job, but this county has a lot of resources to bring to the job for new and existing industry.
“The challenge is the same for all rural communities who are competing with urban centers,” he said. “We must be intentional and resourceful in managing our resources.”
Jones cited transportation, natural resources, higher education and affordable land as assets. His experience in industry and working to make small businesses and industry successful are assets, Jones said.
“I have learned the things that industry needs to be successful, and I have a working relationship with just about every industry in the county,” Jones said.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Robeson County,” he said. “There are several prospective industries in the pipeline.”
Supporting existing industry is critical to economic development, Jones said.
“Gaining a job is cause to celebrate, but losing a job is devastating,” he said.
There is considerable talk in industry and political circles about bringing industry back to the United States, but the playing field has shifted, he said.
“Technology is the key, and having a trained workforce that can handle it is the new driver of change,” Jones said. “Location and the logistics of distribution systems is also important, and we are in a great location with I-95 and U.S. 74.”
Knowledge of the county and working for the entire county will be important aspects of Jones’ new job.
He said the county must pull together and not pit one community against another.
“My role will be to put information in front of prospective industry, so they can make the choice,” he said. “An economic developer does not make that decision.
“I am looking forward to serving the entire county and its citizens. RCC is a special place, so taking this job was a difficult decision. I am looking forward to the challenge.”
The office is located at the Lumberton Regional Airport. It has a staff of the director plus two others, an administrative assistant and an existing industry person.
Cummings has served in the position since 1996. Like Jones, he serves on the Pembroke Town Council as mayor.
Staff writer Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-644-4497 or [email protected]