Partners Tapping Towns; Seeks More Proactive Approach
By Tom Embrey and
Ted M. Natt Jr.
In an effort to build a more cooperative, regional approach to business development, Partners in Progress is looking to open communication lines with local municipalities and community stakeholders
Members of the Partners in Progress executive board met with the Pinehurst Village Council Friday morning. It was the second meeting of its kind.
The executive board met with Southern Pines leaders in November. It will hold meetings with other municipalities in the coming months.
Representatives of Partners and the village said the meeting and the exchange of information and ideas are critical to help the communities individually and the entire community collectively.
"In this community, every city, every town, every village represents a great resource," said Pat Corso, executive director of Partners in Progress. "But I don't think they've ever been asked some of the questions we are asking."
Corso stressed being proactive as he detailed some of his initiatives that center around having a well-educated work force for existing businesses, tapping former and current business leaders as mentors to new business owners and seeking other ways to grow local business.
"We have to cast a wider net," he said.
Representatives from both groups also acknowledged that the demographics in Moore County are changing and that means finding new ways to promote entrepreneurship, business incubation and industrial development. But the key is to find the right community and locations for those activities to take place.
"We are on board now," said Pinehurst Mayor Nancy Roy Fiorillo after the meeting. "Pinehurst is open for business, but it has to fit within the characteristic of the existing area."
Village Manager Andy Wilkison said that in the past, Pinehurst could take a wait-and-see approach to wooing businesses to the area. Things are now different, he acknowledged.
"Years ago, we could just sit back," Wilkison said. "Now we can't do that. By necessity, we have to work with each other. Nobody can do it on their own."
Council members offered some suggestions to Corso and Partners. Those included focusing on retail in the communities, involving medical personnel from FirstHealth in technology and entrepreneur initiatives, and marketing Moore County as a unique area with towns, cities and villages offering a variety of opportunities.
Council member Doug Lapins encouraged Partners to market and promote itself and how its work positively impacts the community.
"You have to continue to inform people what you are about so people will understand how your successful efforts will benefit the residents," Lapins said. "You have to keep making the pitch, because we still have some naysayers out there."
Fred Hobbs, chairman of the Partners' executive board, agreed.
"We may be the best-kept secret that shouldn't be a secret," he said.
Hobbs said the plan is over the next year to meet with all of the municipalities and other stakeholders to continue an open discussion. The next meeting has yet to be set.
Partners kicked off its road show with the November meeting` with Southern Pines officials.
Town Manager Reagan Parsons described the discussion as "very cordial, very positive."
"There was a lot of give-and-take regarding economic development ideas and potential programs moving forward," Parsons said.
Mayor David McNeill commended Partners for getting out and meeting face-to-face with its constituents.
"I think it's good for them to listen to everyone, because they're working for all of us to spur economic growth," McNeill said. "We'd like to see this type of meeting occur on a periodic basis."
Council member Mike Fields agreed.
"I think it's good that Pat is going around and meeting with all of the municipal partners, especially since a lot of us support Partners in Progress financially," he said.
C orso said he is learning that all the communities have issues and that they want to be proactive in creating long-term sustainability.
"We all know that we have to do something," Corso said. "We can't just sit here and wait for people and business to come to us."
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com. Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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