Hobbs Had Vision for Economic Development
Pat Corso was working on his Dunkin Donuts partnership with Ken Baer when Fred Hobbs approached him 18 months ago about succeeding Ray Ogden as executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress.
"It was kind of a surprise to me," Corso says. "He clearly saw something that I didn't see at the time, because I probably wouldn't be here right now if it weren't for Fred. He had the foresight to see an economy in transition and brought me in to take Partners in a whole new direction."
Perhaps that will be Hobbs' legacy - shucking traditional economic development in favor of a bold, fresh approach.
Ogden, a textiles manufacturing executive, was the initial executive director and worked tirelessly to establish the Partners brand and bring new business to Moore County. He also spent a lot of time trying to help existing companies grow.
Essentially, Ogden built relationships that gave Partners a solid foundation to move forward.
When Ogden decided to retire last year, Hobbs and the Partners board of directors could have looked for the same kind of leader or returned to a traditional economic developer.
But Hobbs, a former state senator, had a better idea. He convinced Corso, former CEO of Pinehurst Resort, to sign on the dotted line.
"I wasn't hired to do what Ray had done, and that's not a critique," Corso says. "Fred saw the need for change. That's what I'll miss about him."
Hobbs, who had chaired the Partners board since its inception in 2002, announced last week that he was stepping down to devote more time to Hobbs Upchurch Associates, which he and David Upchurch co-founded in Southern Pines almost 30 years ago.
The decision appears to have been a no-brainer when you consider that Upchurch recently suffered a medical emergency while on a hunting trip in Georgia.
Hobbs' first priority is taking care of their business, which they have built into one of the premier civil engineering firms in the Southeast.
"Now is a suitable time for this transition to take place," Hobbs says. "With the initiatives that we have underway, it's exciting to see the enthusiasm and energy. That's not going to stop just because I'm no longer here. People want to invest their time in seeing these things through."
Moore Forward will host an event at the Fair Barn in Pinehurst next month designed to attract entrepreneurs to office space in the former Razook's building in the heart of the village. The festivities will include a tour of the space.
The event will also serve as the launch of a fundraising campaign for the $200,000 needed annually to run Moore Forward.
Corso and his executive assistant, Melanie Thompson, have already applied for grants from the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center and the Kauffman Foundation to augment local investment.
Corso is also mulling the establishment of a Committee of 100, with a $1,000 buy-in.
And Partners is trying to raise money for a feasibility study to determine whether a farm-to-institution initiative will fly. Farmers from Moore, Lee and Richmond counties are working with the leaders of institutions such as FirstHealth of the Carolinas and Moore County public schools.
While Hobbs will be missed, he won't be forgotten. And his legacy is secure.
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com.
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