LAURINBURG — Scotland County’s “voice of business” has gotten a new pitch.
Taking the reins last week at the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce, Christopher English plans to turn up the lights and shake out the welcome mat at the gateway organization for businesses and industries interested in the area.
“If you don’t know anything about the county at all, this is where people come,” he said. “This is who they call, this is where they drop by to get maps. The role it plays is to educate, and not just outsiders but the community as a whole.”
The Chamber of Commerce board voted last month to hire the county native and Gibson resident as its executive director. English worked for 21 years for Marley Engineered Products, a leading North American manufacturer of electric heaters located in Bennettsville, South Carolina. As marketing support manager, English was in charge of the company’s literature and marketing material and promoted its product at trade shows.
Last week, English started work at the office where he first dropped off a resume more than two decades ago when he began his professional career.
“When I was a little kid, I used to ride down the street, and the logo out front always made me curious: what do they do, what goes on in that building?” English said.
“I’ve always seen what a diverse city and county Laurinburg and Scotland County is. I grew up in it, I feel like I can talk to anybody, so when the opportunity was presented to me to interview it just seemed like a good fit.”
In addition to putting the finishing touches on the Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting, which will be held on Jan. 21, English’s first tasks will include reconnaissance of the organization’s members and other businesses in the community, whose input will help determine new programs and strategies.
Currently, the Chamber of Commerce is working on a future “Laurinburg on the Road with Cecil” series of television shows — in conjunction with the Scotland County Tourism Development Authority, city of Laurinburg, Scotland Health Care System, and Scotland County Schools — to promote the city’s best attributes to WPDE viewers.
“It will draw a lot of attention from potential investors and people at the beach who could see that program and come back through,” said English.
Fueled by memories of the county’s retail and industrial heyday, and despite the city’s frequent placement near the bottom of standard of living rankings, English is optimistic about the possibility of a resurgence.
“You’ve got to turn that negativity around, and that starts in so many areas,” said English, who noted the addition of lights along the U.S. 74 exits leading into Laurinburg, brighter lights from U.S. 401, and upgrades downtown as positive developments.
“When I was growing up, this downtown area was the hub; this was the center of everything: you could stay there all day and it was like going to a mall. The potential is there for the strength of the downtown businesses, but we’ve got to pull the businesses that we need downtown to make people come.
“I’m excited. I’m happy and proud to be here. This is home and I’m not going anywhere.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.