LAURINBURG — After a year-long search and nearly 20 applicants, the Scotland County Economic Development Corporation named its newest director on Monday.
Effective Dec. 2, Roger Johnson will take the office vacated by Greg Icard in November 2014.
Johnson comes to Scotland County from Wilmington, where he served most recently as an economic development assistant for that city. He has also served as a human resources analyst for Wilmington.
The EDC director’s position was created in 2008 to carry out industrial recruitment, workforce development, and other efforts in support of a vibrant business environment locally. Responsibilities include watching industry news, tracking company growth, making contacts, and responding in a timely manner to issues that might avert a business’ interest in the county.
In the year since Icard’s departure, the EDC has put out several rounds of advertisements for the director job, ultimately sifting through 18 applicants — seven of whom were interviewed — before settling on Johnson.
The EDC’s goal, according to Chairman Guy McCook, was to hire someone to develop a vision for economic growth in Scotland County, then execute a plan to achieve it.
“What we wanted was a seasoned professional, with experience in economic development, who could lead us into the future,” he said.
“We had a lot of applicants that didn’t have much experience in economic development. They were good people with experience in other backgrounds, but we just didn’t think any of them were a real fit for what we were trying to do.”
While in Wilmington, Johnson was responsible for strategy, lead generation and oversight of all economic activities including business recruitment, expansion, retention and job growth. He managed site locations, facility expansions, development agreements and incentive agreements as well as collaboration with nonprofit agencies, governmental partners and private industries.
From 2003 to 2010, Johnson managed economic development activities for Progress Energy in Florida, where he oversaw management of infrastructure projects for business recruitment, retention and expansion of large industrial, commercial and institutional customers.
“(Johnson) comes from a background in economic development at the city level, so he’s got a range of expertise that we’ve never really had before as a community,” McCook said. “I think it’s going to benefit our entire community to have someone with his range of experience and his network of contacts around the state.”
Johnson will work under the direction of County Manager Kevin Patterson, who for the last year has managed the county’s economic development efforts. As economic developer, Johnson will focus on the entire county, including its municipalities.
Among the benefits of having a full-time economic development director, McCook said, are projects like the Small Business Innovation Center on U.S. 401. Completed in early 2013, the center was conceived by Icard, who also secured more than $1 million in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Golden LEAF Foundation, and N.C. Rural Center to build it.
“It was his idea, he got the resources together, made the application to the EDA for a grant and basically built that facility using other people’s money,” McCook said. “Greg did a lot of the right things.”
Johnson holds a masters degree in organizational leadership and management from UNC-Pembroke along with a bachelor’s degree in personnel management from Appalachian State University. He also pursued post-baccalaureate studies at N.C. State University and earned a city and county administration certificate at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Johnson will receive an annual salary of $84,300.
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.