WASHINGTON, D.C. — Scotland County leaders talked about the economy and politics with Washington insiders during a two-day summit this week on Capitol Hill.
The local delegation — that included 11 civic and business leaders — also had some one-on-one time with those representing the region in Congress.
The 20th North Carolina Business and Economic Development Summit included remarks by Gov. Pat McCrory as well as House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House’s Democratic whip. The event was organized to allow business and municipal leaders to network and discuss shared concerns for job creation in North Carolina. The event is hosted by North Carolina’s congressional delegation.
“The eastern part of the state needs to build relationships at the federal level,” Scotland County Manager Kevin Patterson said.
The summit, also known as “Taking Care of Business North Carolina” began on Monday at the Cannon House Office Building and featured talks by U.S. Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn of South Carolina. The summit included a congressional briefing, leadership panels and breakout sessions. Nationally-known journalists and cabinet sectaries have spoken at past events.
The Scotland delegation were able to meet privately with U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger in his congressional office. Pittenger represents the 9th District, which will include Scotland County next year because of redistricting.
Jay Todd with Service Thread in Laurinburg, told Pittenger that the county could use his help with its high unemployment rate by making improvements at job centers. Scotland’s jobless rate in July was 9 percent. The state average for July was 4.7 percent.
“There are no signs on the NC Works Center building and we are paying almost $600,000 in rent for the five buildings where three people work at each location,” said Todd, who is also a board member with the Laurinburg-Scotland County Chamber of Commerce. “From the private sector, that’s not working.”
The employment service centers are funded through the Wagner-Peyser Act, which provides federal funding to the state to develop work force services.
Pittenger said he would make inquiries as the 9th District representative if re-elected. He faces Democrat Christian Cano in November.
“I want to deploy resources through relationships,” Pittenger said. “It can sometimes be counter productive, but I can inquire to an extent … I need to have guidance.”
Pittenger also talked about what steps Congress is taking to deal with issues like the Zika virus, the federal budget and avoidance of a government shutdown.
Local leaders also heard from U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, who served as a co-host for the summit. Hudson’s 8th District currently includes Scotland County.
“I am very disappointed that I will no longer be representing Scotland County,” Hudson said of the new district maps. “I have family there and enjoy visiting the area … the people mean a lot to me.”
Hudson said still plans to show his support for Scotland County.
“I am going to work very close with Pittenger. I have already spoke with him,” Hudson said.
Laurinburg council member Mary Jo Adams said she thought the visit, made an impact on congressional leaders.
“It was a good relationship building day, especially with Pittenger … for him to see the amount of people who came to show support for the county,” she said.
John Ferguson, president-elect for the local chamber, agreed.
“We wanted to bring a lot of people this year to show our representative we are serious,” Ferguson said.