LAURINBURG — Scotland’s county seat is the newest of North Carolina’s state-certified retirement communities, officials announced this week.
Laurinburg joins the 12 other North Carolina communities that are currently part of the N.C. Certified Retirement Community program, which was formally established in 2008 by the General Assembly.
Certified retirement communities are recognized for providing the amenities, services and opportunities retirees need to enjoy active and productive lives. The state commerce department’s Economic Development Partnership and VisitNC tourism division administer the program as a means of recruiting retirees and future retirees to consider relocating to the state.
“The selection committee was very impressed by the public/private partnership of the Laurinburg program,” said EDP partner relations manager Andre Nabors in reference to the group of businesses and civic organizations that endorsed the city’s bid for inclusion in the program. “VisitNC applauds the community-wide effort that Laurinburg’s application reflects of this partnership.”
Scotland County Tourism Development Authority president Cory Hughes, who led the application effort, said that Laurinburg’s proximity to U.S. 74, U.S. 15-501 and Interstate 95 should appeal to those interested in an active retirement.
“They want to get out of the snow belt, but once they come here they treat their home more as a home base than a permanent location,” he said.
Among the city’s other senior-friendly amenities are access to health care, safe pedestrian areas, and outdoor activities.
A “retiree attraction committee,” composed of members of the Target Laurinburg/Scotland County effort, will actively market the city online and in magazines, focusing on retired military personnel and residents of the northeast aged 60 to 68.
“These are the folks North Carolina targets: snowbirds looking to relocate and military personnel that are familiar with our region and our community,” Hughes said. “Many of these retirees have solid pensions and are cashing out expensive homes. These are the folks we are going to be targeting for Laurinburg.”
As a certified retirement community, Laurinburg is expected to benefit from the N.C. Department of Commerce’s efforts to market the state to those in other areas of the country. According to Hughes, the department collects information at out-of-state retirement fairs and passes it along to cities in the state.
“They gather all of the contact information and they’ll get about 25,000 people saying I’m interested in North Carolina,” he said. “They will then give those leads to the certified communities, and only the certified communities.”
To support the effort to market Laurinburg to those of retirement age, the TDA, city and county have recruited 13 public and private entities: Scotia Village, Scotland Health Care System, St. Andrews University, Richmond Community College, Laurinburg/Scotland County Chamber of Commerce, Scotland County Parks and Recreation, Laurinburg Optimist Club, Becca Hughes State Farm Insurance, First Capital Bank, First Baptist, WLNC Radio, the Storytelling and Arts Center and Quick Copy.
“We have brought together 13 partners beyond the TDA, the city and county that are going to help fund this effort,” Hughes said. “That is unprecedented for this program and really impressed the folks in Raleigh.”
Hughes also mentioned the continuing efforts of the Target Laurinburg/Scotland County program as contributing to the city’s selection.
“Target Laurinburg/ Scotland County was initiated a few years ago with the encouragement of N.C. Commerce. It is a community-wide effort to make us more marketable for economic growth. This is the second time Target Laurinburg has “touched” N.C. Commerce, and both times have been very positive.”
Members of the community also cited the encouragement and support in Raleigh from state Sen. Tom McInnis.
“It always helps to have our voice up there. He understands the positive impact retirees can have on the community and appreciated the benefit Laurinburg can gain from being part of the program,” said Laurinburg attorney Nick Sojka, Chairman of the Scotland County TDA.
“This is a great opportunity for Laurinburg; it’s something that we’ve not taken advantage of in the past, so we’re excited about it,” Hughes said of the city’s new designation. “These are folks that are coming down here to live retirement and contribute to the community.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.