Key piecesmiss out onbrainstorming

Bladen County Economic Development, with Executive Director Chuck Huestess guiding the process, held an important gathering on Monday, one aimed at brainstorming local ideas to help improve the future of small business in Bladen County.

The get-together at Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery (you can read Chrysta Carroll’s account on Page 1A today) attracted about 40 interested parties representing a variety of business-related facets, from small business owners to community college educators to community civic groups and nonprofit organizations.

The hour-long session generated numerous ideas — including the creation of a central visitors’ center, hiring a marketing director, creating a one-stop location for all permits, producing a promotional video and revitalizing area homes and businesses that had fallen into disrepair. Our favorite and potentially most interesting might have been the “shark tank” suggestion.

But two topics discussed during the session shone a spotlight on two groups that were not well-represented: Bladen County Schools and the Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce.

In the area of education, it was pointed out there was a general frustration with the lack of soft skills — such as proper dress, punctuality, being able to drive oneself to work, and etiquette — being taught locally. Several attendees also noted a lack of basic educational skills, such as elementary math, in their employees. It’s our contention there is evidence of all this throughout the county.

Conspicuous by their absence, however, was anyone from Bladen County Schools administration to answer these concerns.

The session also highlighted the suggestion that the Chamber of Commerce expand to serve the entire county, re-branding itself as the Bladen County Chamber of Commerce. We think if the Chamber is going to grow, it must grow geographically, too — and adding the word “Area” just isn’t cutting it, and shouldn’t.

But visibly missing from the discussion was the vacationing Executive Director Dawn Maynard, whose presence could have produced more constructive debate and possibly sparked an effort going forward to at least explore the possibility. Many in the Chamber and all of the Ambassadors Committee had no idea the executive director was out of town this week.

We understand that at the top of most lists when business owners and potential residents consider moving to Bladen County are such considerations as quality of education and quality of life — both of which Bladen County Schools and the Chamber of Commerce have a lot to do with. The absence of the top leaders from those groups during the discussion Monday is disappointing.

It wasn’t long ago that the Chamber of Commerce held its annual banquet with a guest speaker from Scotland County who told the group that, in order for a county to have future business success, every aspect of government, education, chamber and civic clubs must work together.

If that is true, and we certainly think it is, then Monday’s brainstorming session shows just how far Bladen County has to go before any success can be achieved.



“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success.” (Henry Ford)

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