Going up

Published 2:10 pm Friday, July 20, 2007

By Staff
A regional economic-development group’s decision to help area counties construct spec buildings is one that will bring a twofold increase. Along with upping the region’s attractiveness to prospective businesses, the move goes a long way toward restoring the credibility of a once-wayward organization.
North Carolina’s Northeast Regional Development Commission announced this week that it would partner with the Northeast Committee of 1,000 to finance shell buildings in the 16-county region the commission serves. It’s a move that Beaufort County commissioners have been requesting for months. And it shows the commission’s intention to be thought of as something more than a revamped version of the sullied Northeast Partnership.
The commission exists to bring tourism and economic development to the northeast corner of the state, including Beaufort, Hyde, Washington and Martin counties. The group amputated the Northeast Partnership and reorganized itself and its leadership after an audit last year found the partnership had mishandled millions of dollars.
But that kind of stain is not one that’s easily washed out.
Commissioners had pitched the shell plan to the commission during the spring. Their proposal asked the organization to pay interest incurred during construction of “industry ready” buildings and also asked the group to promote those structures’ availability. But Klemm said this month that the proposal was a no-go, prompting his fellow commissioners to ask for an accounting of Beaufort County’s $213,000 allocation from the commission. They wanted some face time with Vann Rogerson, commission president.
Maybe that was a motivator. Or maybe the plan was already in the works. Either way, a program that allows counties to get loans for “speculative” buildings is a good one.
Beaufort County doesn’t have to look very far to see what a difference available space can make. Just last week, a Florida-based boat-lift company said it would open a distribution site in Washington. Hi-Tide Sales will begin its tenure in Beaufort County in the skills center on Page Road. But those are likely temporary digs as the company plans to build a place of its own here, spokesmen said last week.
The commission’s new loan program will allow a county to borrow up to $100,000, with no interest accruing for three years, according to a release from the group. The money will be used to cover building interest payments.
A plan that helps eastern North Carolina counties even the playing field and helps a once-troubled organization stay true to its original mission is on the right track. From here, we hope it has nowhere to go but up.