WASHINGTON D.C. — After dining blocks from the White House, rubbing shoulders with past and present House speakers and checking out a Washington Nationals game, Capitol Hill made quite an impression this week on a delegation of Scotland County leaders.
Those same local leaders hope they made an impression on Capitol Hill.
The group of 11 county civic and business leaders were in Washington for the two-day North Carolina Business and Economic Development Summit.
The goal of the trip was to see and be seen by North Carolina representatives in Congress. This year’s marks the 2oth summit organized to allow business and municipal leaders to network and discuss shared concerns for job creation in North Carolina. The event, hosted by North Carolina’s congressional delegation, included a congressional briefing, leadership panels and breakout sessions.
The Scotland County group attending this year included Laurinburg council members Dee Hammond and Mary Jo Adams, County Manager Kevin Patterson, City Manager Charles Nichols, Chamber President Dean Nichols, Chamber President-elect John Ferguson, Scotland Tourism Director Cory Hughes, Chamber Executive Director Chris English, Chamber Marketing Coordinator Hannah Wilson and Service Thread COO Jay Todd and his wife, Julieann Todd.
“I go because I want to be engaged,” Jay Todd said. “I wish more people were engaged not as complainers. Nothing is going to happen immediately… as in next week, but it will create a connection that can benefit the community in the long run.”
The event 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.
McCrory said some people view students who drop out of a two- or four-year school after receiving a certification as failures.
“What are you talking about? That is a success, they are certified,” McCrory said.
The idea of rethinking education and what is seen as a success could help attract more manufacturing companies to Scotland County, English said.
“I did get a lot out of Gov. McCrory’s speech,” English said. “It seems that in terms of the economy and education in the state it is all positives — I am hopeful the positives will trickle down to Scotland County.”
The summit, known officially 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.
Scotland officials said they were pleased with how the meetings with Rep. Robert Pittenger and Rep. Richard Hudson went. Hudson is currently represents the county as part of District 8. Pittenger will represent Scotland County when it becomes part of District 9 next year because of redistricting.
“I think the number of Scotland County representatives we brought with us was most beneficial,” Hammond said. “It wasn’t just one person and the meeting with Pittenger was an example — when he saw how many of us came he took it as an opportunity to build that relationship.”
Still the summit was not without it drawbacks.
Ferguson thought Majority Leader McCarthy’s speech sounded eerily familiar.
“The speaker from California said the exact same speech as he did last year,” Ferguson said. “When I was listening I was thinking ‘I know I have heard this before.’ ”
Others found some of the talks were too concerned with politics rather than economics.
“I would have liked for it to have been more North Carolina focused. It seemed like a stump speech for Donald Trump when Newt Gingrich spoke,” English said.
The group also failed to get a one-on-one meeting with U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina. They had to speak with a Tillis aide instead. Patterson had hoped to talk about poverty, unemployment and the opportunity for Scotland County to become a region for advanced manufacturing.
“It was a let down we didn’t get to meet with Sen. Tillis,” English said. “Going forward and looking to next year, I think we will let Senator Tillis know how many people are coming well in advance to see if he can make time to meet with us personally,” English said.
But Jay Todd said the two days in Washington helped put “things in perspective.”
“I went because I want to know what is going on as a citizen and I can’t do that by watching the news,” he said. “If we don’t go, we are going to get nothing for sure … 99 percent of success is showing up.”
English said he wants more county officials to try to attend next year’s summit.
“It would be even more beneficial to bring more people to next year’s summit,” English said. “Maybe next year we can have someone from Scotland County Schools come with us.”
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171