LUMBERTON — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and a group of top state administrators toured Robeson County on Tuesday and will continue doing so Wednesday promoting the governor’s Hometown Strong rural initiative.
The tour culminated at the Robeson County Emergency Operations Center, where the state leaders met with a local elected and administrative officials to discuss issues and solutions.
“Robeson County is one of six counties in Hometown Strong, a program that will help rural counties cut through bureaucracy,” Cooper said. “Rural communities have unique challenges and hold so much opportunity for us.”
His visit also hit a political chord.
“A lot of people making more than $200,000 a year and corporations have benefited greatly from tax cuts, and it’s time for us to invest in teacher pay, broadband internet access and transportation. I want North Carolinians to be better educated, healthier, with more money in their pockets and living purposeful lives,” he said.
Among the governor’s entourage was Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
“I have a plan to bring 700 jobs to Robeson County tomorrow without spending any state funds,” Cohen said. “If we expand Medicaid, 26,000 Robesonians could gain access to health insurance. Think of the benefits to area hospitals.”
Cohen and Robson County Pubic Health Department Director Bill Smith reminded members of the audience that the county ranks last in the state in health.
Other speakers included Greg Burns, District 6 Department of Transportation engineer, who, with local transportation board member Grady Hunt, discussed road improvement projects.
Susi Hamilton, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, discussed the need for expanded high-speed internet service for education and business in rural communities.
Eric Hooks, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and Robeson County Manager Ricky Harris, discussed workforce development.
Issues, including the opioid epidemic and reducing traffic fatalities, also were discussed.
Earlier in the day, Cooper visited with Lumbee Tribe leaders at the North Carolina Indian Cultural Center and at the Lumbee Veterans Center in Pembroke.
The governor’s Hometown Strong contingent will continue its tour Wednesday with visits to all Robeson municipalities.
Staff writer Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-644-4497 of [email protected]