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Population decreasing in Columbus County

READ MORE: Population decreasing in Columbus County
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Reported by: Tim Pulliam A declining population and rising unemployment numbers has Columbus County leaders going on the offensive. They are promoting the county's resources to attract business, and potential residents. Adriann Bartow has lived in Whiteville for 14 years. She has seen the local economy at it's best and worst. “In the last few years maybe two or three years I've seen it drop.” Last year at this time the unemployment rate in Columbus County was 5.4%. Now it is 8.5%, one of the highest in the state. As Bartow makes her way to the unemployment office, she admits the thought of leaving Whiteville has crossed her mind. A number of companies packed up and left town in the late nineties which could explain the .2% drop in the county's population from 2000 to 2006. Compare that to neighboring Brunswick County, which experienced a nearly 30 percent population growth in that same time period. Janice Young works for the Whiteville Chamber of Commerce. She said, “You know one of the things about Columbus County is that we are not known by a lot of folks that are moving from other areas.” The Greater Whiteville Chamber of Commerce is using promotional materials and billboards along state highways to present Columbus County as being a good place to live. County leaders are also working with the State Department of Commerce and North Carolina Southeast, an economic development marketing agency in hopes of attracting new business to the Southeast Regional Park in Whiteville. Columbus and Brunswick Counties are also working to create an industrial park near the county line off Highway 74. So far about six businesses are interested in relocating to the area. ”Things will certainly turn around. It's not going to be overnight. I keep telling people it will be incremental, we need to celebrate every success. A new business is great no matter how big whether it's 20 people, 30 people, 40 employees, every new job counts,” said Justin Smith of the economic development commission. There is still a lot of hope in the area.

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Suggestions and Observations

There are a lot of varying opinions here. Some good observations as well from an insider point of view. As someone who grew up in Baltimore, MD and been here for a little over 7 years now, here’s a few thoughts and ideas based on how I watched Baltimore grow from 1980-2000. 1. The industrial parks are fine but I have to agree with many of you, they are just too far in a county that does not have regular public transportation. Transportation that if well planned after an initial setup cost could generate revenue to offset some of the cost. 2. In terms of Whiteville, start renovations from the inside and work its way outward. The work that was done to Vineland Station was great but don’t stop there. There are far too many vacant buildings along Madison St. So much so that more or less that stretch of road is just a through way to get to Walmart and Lowe’s. (Kudos for some of the long standing food grills such as Ed’s Grill and Ward’s Grill and the addition of Mae’s Coffee shop.) I literally watched Camden Yards and much of what is known as the Inner Harbor get built up with attractions then spread out to the surrounding areas of downtown Baltimore. It happened there, it can happen here on a smaller scale. 3. Whether I agree with the election results or not, the one thing that is clear is that young people are closing the gap in society. Not all of them have fallen victim to the poverty trap and are a factor in money that is spent (Theirs and their parents’ money!!!). Reach out to some of the smarter kids in high school to get somewhat of an idea of what they would like to spend money on and work to try to bring those types of businesses to the downtown area. Bear in mind that they are still kids so everything they mention should not be taken at face value but at least there would be a fresh prospective on things. 4. Lastly, someone mentioned “the good ole boy” factor. I have noticed that there is a lot of that here too. I’m not saying we shouldn’t help our friend find employment but what about the deserving neighbors that could use a good word to get in the door? Again, just observations and suggestions. In addition to bringing people to the county there must be mechanisms in place to make them want to stay in the county and feel just as welcome as those who grew up here. Hopefully this will spark positive discussion or get to some of the decision makers here. Time will tell...

Columbus County - no place like home

I think Columbus County is a wonderful place to live. We have some good people here, a few good jobs, a very nice school system (WTS), etc.It is rated along with everywhere else. You have your good and your bad. Tell me a county that don't have drugs and rough areas? Unfortunally that is the world we all are living in today. The problem we as a whole need to focus on, is building the economy with more jobs. It is time to stop pointing fingers and pray for our people as well as the economy. If you are not happy living in this county then you have the right to move. Some people enjoy and are proud of this area.

Columbus County

I'm a corporation or home buyer. Convince me to move here.

Too Bad

with all the innuendo laden advertising on televison, the 2 State Senatorial Candidates could not have met in a town hall meeting and discussed what they would specifically propose to solve the building crisis. I guess it's better to remain secure behind a vidoe camera than to get out on the line and fact the real issues.

Who would move to Columbus county?

Columbus county should ask the question, why would anybody want to move to Columbus county? There are no jobs. The crime rate and gang problems are getting out of hand. The place is full of rural ghettoes. Extreme poverity is the only thing that is abundant. The schools are not rated very well. The little town of Whiteville still has a city school system that drains badly needed school money from a county that is already dirt poor. The old agriculture system is as dead as all those folks who smoked that Columbus county tobacco. Finally, the whole thing is still run by a good ole boy network that has been passed down for generations. So, why would any person want to move to Columbus county? The only way that it will ever attract new people is to modernize and join the 21st century. Clean up the crooks and the drugs. Spread tax money equally in the county. Kick out everyone in any position of authority and start over (do not replace them with their family members). Take a gamble and offer businesses some hard cash to come to Columbus county. For some strange reason, I don't think billboards are going to do it. They should fire that genius first.

I still think that Columbus County....

...needs to totally re-invent itself, just as Brunswick County did. The ocean made their job earier, but Columbus County could look at other options. Let's face it, the people in Southern Pines and Pinehurst would still be living off of squirrels and wild berries if they hadn't come up with a novel idea many years ago and created a golf mecca. Time to start thinking out of the box....and getting Soles and McIntyre to get some funding for badly needed road improvements. You people worship those two guys - it's time for them to start EARNING your loyalty.

Please Do NOT Underestimate my Beloved Sandhills!

That "novel idea" actually began nearly 100 years ago with the completion of the first Donald Ross Course. Pinehurst hosted a PGA Championship as early as 1936. Southern Pines and Pinehurst have been the playground of the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts for generations. These beautiful, picturesque towns have a rich tradition not only in golf, but the arts as well. Pinehurst was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead (designer of Central Park in NYC) and Southern Pines was home to James Boyd, a noted author of his time. I have never visited Columbus County and cannot speak to its attractiveness (or lack there of), but do not kid yourself that some clever Chamber of Commerce Executive just came up with the idea of creating a golf mecca in the Sandhills.

Who is underestimating you?

Was it a novel idea or not? In a state that at the time was 99% agrarian, did SOMEONE think outside the box, or not? Was it indeed "many years ago?"? If you want to gripe about something I post, there are many other far more confrontational choices. The topic was Columbus County and a mere aside about the Pinehurst area didn't require me to delve into the complete history of the Sandhills. Please do NOT imagine some insult where none exists.

Re: Reinventing Columbus County

I agree with the reinvention theory, and as far as Mr. Soles and Mr. McIntyre, maybe they just need to be voted out. I mean really, Mr. Soles has been in office way to long. I think terms should be limited. Song keeps running thru my head, "What Have You Done For Me (Columbus County) Lately?")

Bring it on....

I say bring it on. I live in the area where they are talking about building the industrial park. Personally, it sure would beat working closer to home verses fighting traffic every day to get into and out of Wilmington.

An Industrial Park Where?

The Brunswick - Columbus County line is a TERRIBLE location. It's too far from where the unemployed people are, and in case anyone has forgotten, it's only a few miles away from the Leland Industrial Park that is sitting half empty. I'm not sure an industrial park is going to get Columbus County what it needs, but if they're wedded to that idea, for God's sake build it closer to Whiteville.

Isn't

Southeast Regional Park located in Whiteville? Causes one to wonder where the funds are coming from to create a second park in Whiteville. Of course, in a declining economy, with large and small businesses cutting costs and corners, what would they expect to attract to a "new" park. For that matter, why can'nt they use the existing park; it would seem far easier, less expensive, and quicker to attract business to an already existing facility. Are these folks all Democrats or do they own the land where they would propose putting the new park?

You're right!

There IS an industrial park there, fairly small, but it too is mostly empty. WHY would they need another industrial park? Obviously a few of the Columbus County Oligarchs see some short-term money to be made.