Development Effort Needs a Boost
Since Sept. 11, 2001, life as we knew it has changed dramatically. Americans have had to deal with new economic realities that threw traditional measurements onto the trash heap of history and demanded fresh standards of behavior.
More recently, real estate inflation has reversed course as property values plunged and job security fell victim to business contraction and failures. Life across the country is uncertain and it is being continuously massaged by our competing politicians' sound bites.
In Moore County, we need a change in priorities among our elected and business leadership. The inflow of well-heeled retirees appears to be a slowing trend, and the future of resort meeting and convention activities is less well defined than in the '90s.
Moore County has had its party, and now it is time to clear the dishes and sweep the floor. All of us need to get serious about economic development within our borders and plan for the new economy that will rise from the economic ash heap of recession. We must control our future.
Last month, I wrote about Partners in Progress, Moore County's public/private partnership for economic development. That organization has been thinking about small start-up business incubation efforts in the Durham area, and Pat Corso has contracted to pay for a study that would seek to apply those business principles to our local economy. Good start.
Jay Gibson, who served the village of Pinehurst for some time before becoming town engineer for Chapel Hill, keeps himself up to date about Pinehurst by reading The Pilot. I trust Jay's professional judgment. When he suggested that we ought to meet a former collogue who had just been hired as economic development manager for the city of Raleigh, it became a good opportunity to see what the "city folks" were up to in a fast growing metropolitan area.
Dwight Bassett has 23 years of urban and economic development experience. He joined the city of Raleigh in the economic development job in March 2012. Previously he served as the economic development officer for the town of Chapel Hill since May 2007. To both insiders and observers, Chapel Hill is a demanding place to work, and Bassett left behind a series of notable accomplishments.
Four of us met to talk about economic growth, but the best dialogue was between the two development guys - Bassett the instructor and Corso the pupil. I came away from the meeting realizing that there are many choices to be made and that economic development is a process that cannot be left to the gods. Right now, local leadership is leaving many things to chance while we have the opportunity to get on top of growth while the process can still be managed.
Our friend Pat has been well schooled in the art of hospitality and resort management. He quickly acknowledges that economic development is a profession that will require a lot of on-the-job training.
He does not hesitate to seek out people like Bassett who have been there and done that. Pat's local reputation is such that doors will swing open and his ideas will get realistic analysis.
Partners in Progress, which once boasted a million-dollar budget, is being forced to operate on a shoestring. The annual budget is less than $300,000, and that is disgraceful. Shame on our negative leadership. To pay for an outside study concerning Moore County's future as an incubator business site, Pat organized a fundraising golf tournament to pay the bill. Come on, people, public and private interests have an obligation to fund development efforts.
Any thinking person would see that Moore County needs a collective effort, but so far the naysayers have held the podium. The mountain that the county commissioners had to climb to build the government center in Carthage was steep, but in the end they have done the right thing. Does anyone believe that we can govern a 21st century economy with 20th century facilities?
In a solo effort, Pinehurst has examined the feasibility of a performing arts center. Such a facility would be regional, and the input should be regional. Is the successful model of the Water Summit lost on leadership? It shouldn't be.
Those who want the area to stay just as it was, or is, must come to grips with what it takes just to stay even. That, too, takes planning.
Walter B. Bull Jr. lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at email@example.com.
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