The Laurinburg City Council took time this week to define the city’s role in economic development in Scotland County.
When the dust settled on Tuesday’s extended discussion, it was agreed that the city would continue to support various organizations involved in economic development and would seek to expand its marketing presence.
Council also agreed that improved roads and water access were keys to economic development.
“We should continue to be good partners with (groups like the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation, the Laurinburg Downtown Revitalization Committee and others),” said Councilwoman Mary Jo Adams.
Adams also said the city should continue to invest in infrastructure.
“There are a lot of roads that could use major repairs,” Adams said, adding that such upgrades aid in business recruitment.
The discussion was driven by Mayor Tommy Parker, who came to the meeting seeking an outline of Laurinburg’s role in economic development ahead of a Nov. 7 county “stakeholders” meeting.
At the stakeholders’ October meeting, the participating groups agreed to report back next month with a description of their respective roles in economic development.
“We’re just trying to get some momentum,” said Parker of the stakeholders group.
But Councilman Curtis Leak advised a slow approach, saying that he “believes we are going to have to be very cautious with how we spend our money.”
Leak also said that in its expanded marketing efforts the city should attempt to appeal to individuals looking to relocate as a place with “high quality of life.”
Councilman J.D. Willis agreed.
“Marketing is great, but you have got to have some sort of plan so you don’t spend a lot of money and find yourself in a hole.”
Parker praised Willis for “having more experience with industry recruitment than everyone in this room,” and asked the former county commissioner for his opinion on marketing efforts.
Willis responded by saying that proper marketing could make Laurinburg a destination not only for industry, but for smaller businesses and individuals.
While the meeting did help the city clarify its role, Parker and Councilman Kenton Spencer each pointed out that the definition could change at any point in the future.
“In the end what we will need to decide is whether we will be amplifiers or actuators — we have to have a coherent approach,” Spencer said.
Hesitating to put too specific a label on the city’s role, Councilman Drew Williamson said that Laurinburg’s influence is wider than some other organizations.
“We are the population and retail sales center, and we will continue to focus on downtown … (but) our role is more broad. The message should be that we are in the game (of economic development) and that we consider it critical.”