"The Regional Center is an investment for generations to come," said 7th District U.S. Congressman Mike McIntyre. "This (groundbreaking) proves that when we work together, we can make a difference."
Pictured (from left): Cecil Brown, HUD representative, Ronnie Hunt, LREMC, Rev. Ron Sanders, campus minister, Lorna McNeill, alumni director, Henry Lewis, UNCP trustee, Congressman Mike McIntyre, and Dr. Roger Brown, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs
U.S. Rep. McIntyre said he has high hopes for the Regional Center's role in turning around the sagging economy of Robeson and surrounding counties. He was the keynote speaker April 28 at the groundbreaking ceremony for UNC Pembroke's new Regional Center for Economic, Community and Professional Development.
"The number one issue in our community is jobs," McIntyre said. "The number two issue is jobs and the number three issue is jobs.
The congressman said he is very comfortable at the COMtech. business and education park, where the new 11,500 square-foot center is to be constructed. McIntyre's great grandfather once farmed land there, and he cut wood at the site as a young man, he said.
McIntyre personally delivered $950,000 in federal funding for project. Federal funding is nearing $3 million for the Regional Center, which seeks to harness the university's resources to address community issues.
Pictured (from left): Henry Lewis, UNCP trustee, Johnny Hunt, county commissioner, Ronnie Hunt, LREMC, and Congressman Mike McIntyre
Representing UNCP, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Roger Brown praised COMtech. and the Regional Center as an historic partnerships that will break new ground for the region's economy.
"The building we are about to break ground for already has a special place in the history and the future of our institution," Dr. Brown said. "This is the first building we have ever constructed off campus."
"It is fitting that we break ground here at COMtech., which is another project that owes its existence to an array of partnerships that are represented here this morning," Dr. Brown said. "Forging alliances and building partnerships is the only way we will be able to build a successful community in the new world we live in today."
For COMtech., it was the third groundbreaking in the past few months. Robeson Community College will build a technology-training center at the site, and the Public Schools of Robeson County has promised a technology magnet school at the park, located between Lumberton and Pembroke.
Lumbee River Electric Membership Cooperative (LREMC) has been instrumental in planning and building the 600-acre COMtech.
"I am pleased to be here welcoming another founding partner at a groundbreaking," said Ronnie Hunt, LREMC's executive director and chair of COMtech's board of directors. "We're proud to have you aboard."
The Robeson County Board of Commissioners provided initial funding and support for COMtech.
"The commissioners and I long for the day that this 'field of dreams' is filled with business and industry," said Johnny Hunt, county commission chair.
There were many representatives from local governments and businesses at the site, including Pembroke Mayor Milton Hunt and Lumberton Mayor Raymond Pennington.
UNCP trustee Henry Lewis, a Lumberton businessman, summed up by saying the groundbreaking is day one of the turnaround of the region's economy.