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SEDC Holds 46th Annual Meeting at Lu Mil
 
Southeastern Economic Development Commission (SEDC) held their 46th Annual Meeting Tuesday at Lu Mil near Dublin.  SEDC represents 12 counties from Richmond to Pender, Brunswick and New Hanover.  SEDC offices are located in Elizabethtown.  Pamela Bostic is the Executive Director and Greg Icard of Scotland County is the current Chairman.
 
Speakers included Steve Yost, President of North Carolina Southeast and Icard, Director of Scotland County EDC.  The Keynote Speaker was Dan Gerlach, President of Golden Leaf Foundation, Inc.
 
Yost spoke about a recent effort on the part of his organization to look at the strengths and weaknesses of local work forces in the region.  He said despite the downturn in the economy, the region had experienced a net job growth.  Healthcare is second to government in jobs in the area.  "Most of the increase in government jobs was the increased military presence," according to Yost.  Third is manufacturing.  According to Yost, there are 37,000 to 38,000 jobs in the region.  Available buildings and sites in the area are listed on the N.C. Southeast website.  He stressed that local EDC Directors were very involved in his efforts to market the 12 county region.
 
Greg Icard spoke about the efforts of Scotland County to market their area.  He shared their effort, 'Scotland County Small Business Center', and said they followed a plan by Chuck Heustess and Bladen County.  He said Scotland was being proactive and aggressive.  In the summer of 2010, his group applied for and received $800,000 from EDA, $200,000 from Golden Leaf and used $200,000 of local funds.  The Partnership built a 12,800 square foot facility and a new company now occupies the new building.  Without the plan and the dollars, he said, there was no way they could be where they are today.
 
Dan Gerlach, President of Golden Leaf was the Keynote Speaker.  He is no stranger to Bladen County and the SEDC area.  
 
He said Golden Leaf Foundation has invested $34 million in the area in the past 24 months.  Community Colleges, Duke Energy Foundation, Public Schools and were among the benefactors.  Gerlach said Golden Leaf would invest in 24 - 4 year scholarships in the area, the official announcement should be coming shortly.  He said investment in healthcare was important.  Speaking about newcomers coming to the area, if you don't have good healthcare they most likely will not come or if they come will not stay.  He cited the good work being done by Campbell University.  Golden Leaf offers leadership development, paid internships, and more to entice young folks to get a good education and return to rural eastern North Carolina.
 
"Where does Golden Leaf go next?"...According to Gerlach, the last session of the North Carolina Legislation cut off all future funds from the tobacco buyout that had been in place for many years.  "We will not grow as fast as we have in the past to meet the needs of the area.  "We will try to get some of the funds back, but not in the next session," he added.  The majority of his board has been on-board for less than 2 years..  Approximately $40 million will be invested in water and sewer grants for tier one counties in the next year.  Over 300 grants were made last year. He announced that $10 million to $12 million dollars in grant money will be available in the 12 county area.  Golden Leaf is looking for the 3 best projects in the area to fund.  It will amount to about $1.5 million per county but it will be competitive and every tier will be eligible and multi-county projects are eligible.  "Everybody hates the tier system," he added.  It's not good, but OK.  Some of the money will be for grants, economic development, workforce training and scholarships.
 
While the employment rate is decreasing in the state, 3/4 of the new jobs are in Wake and Mecklenburg counties, according to the speaker.  He said he is meeting every Monday with Department of Commerce folks on ways to make it (EDC) better.  It's not working yet, but we are getting there."  He responded to a question related to whether North Carolina was spending more time on bringing in new businesses or helping grow local business.  "Grow more local businesses" was his reply.
 
Following the speeches, the members re-elected the current slate of officers including Greg Icard of Scotland as Chairman....Gary Lanier of Columbus as Vice Chair and Chuck Heustess of Bladen as Sec/Treas. 

    
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