Leaders in local agriculture, communications, service, government, medicine, energy, manufacturing and education gathered for lunch at the Hilton Garden Inn Wednesday to welcome North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Sharon Decker to the Roanoke Valley, and hear her take on how they fit into state plans for growth.
"You are the people in this county who get things done," said Halifax County Commissioner Chairman James Pierce in his welcoming statements.
Pierce explained Decker was on a tour of Halifax County, looking at the county's assets and challenges.
Decker called it a windshield tour, adding she learned a lot about the county's economic development challenges, tourism and other assets.
"I have a great empathy for your area as you have gone though a tremendous amount of change," she said.
Decker said there is good news — she believes Halifax County has a competitive edge over other areas.
She said the overall cooperative attitudes and partnerships between the county, the towns and businesses in Halifax County is outstanding.
"You are very wellpositioned, I'm impressed," she said. "You know what your assets are. There's a great partnership between the county and towns. Everyone is working together. I see a real community vision. That's rare."
She said many rural areas stopped investing in their futures with the economic decline.
She complimented Halifax County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Cathy Scott and the county.
"You have tremendous assets," she said.
"Your investments in infrastructure has positioned you for growth. Even with the decline, you are positioned for growth."
Decker said the state wants to help by moving faster and being more fl exible on development plans, and by helping already established small businesses through deregulation.
"The best investment in the state is businesses already located in North Carolina," she said. "We need to do things to get out of the way of small business development."
She said the state is working to transform The Rural Center and other programs to provide a one-stop option for funding, which will improve economic development services.
Decker said she would like to see increased exports, including agriculture.
"We have enough land we can feed the hungry world," she said.
"And the Secretary of Agriculture wants to do that."
After the luncheon, Pierce said he was very impressed with Decker.
"She quickly absorbed a lot about where we are," he said.
"I believe something good will come out of the restructuring. It will be easier to seek funding. I'm hopeful this will help us get to where we want to be."
Representing the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe, Earl Evans said his people are interested in continuing to engage in partnerships with the county and other entities to "collectively enhance the economy of Halifax County."
"Hopefully (Decker) will continue the commitment to include the Haliwa- Saponi tribe's economy as part of the efforts of the administration," he said.
Halifax Regional CEO/President Will Mahone said, "I thought it was important for her to see the unique needs of a rural community and how it compares to urban centers that have more resources."