Tourism, infrastructure critical to boosting Columbus County’s economy
LELAND, NC (WWAY) — Columbus County leaders are hopeful expansions at a horse arena and the creation of a wild cat sanctuary will attract visitors and generate additional tourism revenue.
With the recent addition of 50 stalls and corral areas in the horse venue at the Boys and Girls Home at Lake Waccamaw, county leaders say it will help the facility attract bigger events.
“By doing that, it allows the horse venue to get events that had gone elsewhere and the number of shows and horse-related events has double this year versus past year,” said Columbus County Economic Development Director Gary Lanier during an interview on WWAY’s Good Morning Carolina.
County officials are hopeful this will attract more visitors who will spend more money at local hotels and restaurants.
Another project the county is working to develop involves Shizzy’s Wildcat Rescue, a nonprofit sanctuary for large-breed cats. The rescue will be located in the former Fair Bluff Motor Company building.
“The facility will bring 12-15 jobs including a couple of veterinarians which are nice-paying jobs,” and Lanier added, “They’ll have a lot of volunteers to support the venue and I think it will turn into a neat tourist attraction.”
Columbus County is also focusing on infrastructure improvements to lure new businesses and industry to the area.
One of the big economic drivers in Columbus County has involved a partnership between International Logistics Park and Economic Development of Brunswick County.
“Brunswick County has seen a lot of growth because it is a Tier II county, so we can go after grant funding as a Tier I County that Brunswick could not go after,” Lanier said. “In partnership with North Carolina Department of Commerce, we recently received a grant for $2.15 million dollars to put the sewer infrastructure in place at the International Logistics Park.”
While the project will take about two years to complete, Lanier said in the long run the Columbus County will be in a better position lure more companies in the future.
“Companies just aren’t willing to wait a year and a half for you to maybe get a grant, maybe get it built before they get their building finished,” he said. “So having it [infrastructure] in place is really important.”
When asked if the county has lost jobs in the past because of the lack of infrastructure, Lanier said, “There have been at least one or two significant projects that went elsewhere because they were not able to wait for the infrastructure to be put in place.”
Recently, the county secured a grant to cover not just the International Logistics Park on the south side of Highway 74/76 but also a waste treatment pumping station on the north side to serve the Mid Atlantic Industrial Rail Park.
“Now we have two mega sites and within a matter of a few months the sewer service will be in place,” he said.
Ultimately, job creation and the ability to attract new businesses are critical Lanier said to boosting the economic vitality and diversity across Columbus County.