ELIZABETHTOWN — U.S. Sen. Richard Burr made a stop in Elizabethtown on Wednesday to speak to the Southeastern Economic Development Commission during its 48th annual meeting at Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery.
“I feel very fortunate that we had the opportunity to host (Burr) at our meeting this year and have him serve as the keynote speaker,” said Pam Bostic, executive director of SEDC. “He is a strong supporter of the (Economic Development Administration) at the federal level, which drives local projects with funding from the federal government.”
SEDC represents 12 counties in southeastern North Carolina, and leaders from some of those counties, as well as numerous leaders from Bladen County, were addressed by Burr.
“I’ve never been more excited about the future of North Carolina than I am now,” Burr began his address.
He informed guests that he wanted North Carolina to be a national leader in technology, but that it would require capital. In order to acquire capital, he reasoned, North Carolina needs investors who see the state as a good investment.
“The Affordable Care Act and the (Department of Labor’s recent overtime rule) are killing companies,” he went on to say, citing companies that have to cut their employees’ time in order to avoid insurance and overtime.
Burr spoke in support of the localization of education, calling the eradication of the National School Board “doing the right thing.”
He praised North Carolina’s infrastructure, specifically the community college system, by saying that “no other state has such a robust system,” but he also said that community colleges are being done “an injustice” by being sent young people who need remediation in order to be accepted.
“If we want to do them a favor, every student needs to be academically ready,” he said.
He commended the coordination between community colleges and the military, allowing military training to count toward training in areas such as welding and emergency management.
“They acquire these skills in the military, and then we require them to go back to school for two years,” he said. “It’s tough to go to school at age 20. Imagine trying to do it at age 50.”
The Research Triangle Park was used as an example of a community taking the field or resources that they have and developing a nationally recognized, thriving industry.
“North Carolina is the model of what every corporation wants when they’re looking for a 50-year investment. We’re this close,” Burr said, holding his thumb and first finger about an inch apart. “It just takes local and national leadership.”
After closing, Burr invited questions from the crowd and received a question about how to attract foreign capital. He advised leaders to ensure that regulations were understandable and to make a clear pathway to get innovations approved.
Because Burr serves as chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, he was fielded a question about the threat of Isis.
“The challenge is that the U.S. hasn’t taken a leadership role,” he answered. “Early on, we had the ability to choke it and kill it. Now, they have a reach that spans the globe, so we’re taking limited resources and spreading them around globally. It’s like a congressman who had a small area being told that now he’s the representative for a much larger area, but with the same resources. It’s going to take time. This is a 10-year, minimum, challenge.”
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.