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Governor’s ‘Hometown Strong’ program headed to Columbus

Revised on: 09.7.2018 at 06:34 p.m.

Posted on: 09.6.2018 at 07:00 a.m.

By Allen Turner

posted 7.7.2018

The head of Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature rural economic development initiative told local leaders that Columbus County will soon be rolled into the effort. 

Pryor Gibson, the director of Cooper’s “Hometown Strong” program, made the announcement during brief remarks at last week’s quarterly meeting of the Columbus County Intergovernmental Council at the Chadbourn Depot Museum.

Pryor Gibson, the director of Cooper’s “Hometown Strong” program.

Although a native of Anson County, Gibson spent some of his formative years in Columbus County, specifically in the White Marsh area. He drew laughs when he told the group, “Thank goodness for Columbus County, because working in tobacco here made me realize I needed to get an education.”

Formerly a member of the N.C. House of Representatives, Gibson was a seatmate of the late Leo Mercer, who represented Columbus County in the legislature many years ago.

Pryor said that Cooper came to the conclusion about a year ago that he was tired of people talking about how to help rural North Carolina and decided to instruct the heads of his cabinet agencies to figure out ways to put words into action. At the time, Gibson was running the state Forestry Association but the governor asked him to head up the effort, which was dubbed Hometown Strong.

“It sounds real simple,” Gibson said, “but when you’re requiring state government to figure out a way across all the regulations to get something done, it can be hard.” A six-county pilot program was established that has met all expectations, Gibson said, and the program now is ready for rollout statewide.

While declining to go into any detail, he said that Hometown Strong will begin specific efforts in Columbus County in about two weeks.

“We’re committing every agency in state government to sitting down with every local municipal and county government and figure out a way to help,” he said. “I’m real optimistic about what is going on right now. It’s non-partisan and we are going to find a way, especially in low-wealth smaller communities, to do things that individually we couldn’t do before.”

In addition to Gibson’s brief off-the-cuff remarks, Intergovernmental Council members also heard presentations from Dalton Dockery, head of the Cooperative Extension Service here, on the state of agriculture in Columbus County. A story on Dockery’s presentation will be featured in an upcoming edition of The News Reporter. Bill Thompson, director emeritus of Boys and Girls Homes at Lake Waccamaw, also presented on the expansion of the horse show arena at Boys and Girls Homes. 

The Intergovernmental Council is made up mostly of elected officials and administrators from the county’s local governments and educational institutions, but the organization welcomes anyone interested in good government at its quarterly meetings. 


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