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Master developer addresses county’s future

Experienced real estate developer Bobby Harrelson told about 60 listeners last night (Tuesday) that Columbus County is “on the brink” of economic opportunities if the right conditions can be met.

Harrelson, who built Waterford, Compass Pointe and 100 other properties in and around Brunswick County, was the guest speaker at the Columbus Jobs Foundation at the group’s annual meeting at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences at Whiteville.

Harrelson emphasized that vision without execution does little good. “I’m not going to tell you anything you don’t already know,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what you know if you don’t do it.” Communities must invest in infrastructure and advertise their advantages, neither of which is cheap, he said.

Les High, president of Columbus Jobs Foundation, presented Bobby Harrelson with a throwing axe from Council Tool at Monday's meeting.

Once a town is doing the right things to attract business and new residents, he said, “You’ve got to keep at it, keep at it, keep at it.” That includes enforcing ordinances against litter and protecting other signs of a town’s quality of life.

“People buy looks,” said Harrelson. Visitors to a town judge a place by what they see. A bad impression is hard to live down because, “People have a lasting memory of what they saw.” Harrelson emphasized that downtown is the crucial starting point for revitalization.

Audience member Chris Petrone said afterward that Harrelson’s practical advice was “what needed to be said.”

Major real estate deals will remain out of reach, said landlord and builder J.E. Thompson, until sewer service becomes available countywide.

“I was glad to hear him emphasize the importance of downtown,” said store owner and Whiteville Mayor Terry Mann.

Columbus Jobs Foundation President Les High said that Harrelson’s message aligned with the volunteer group’s goals for 2020 to make Columbus County a good place to live, grow crops, do business, enjoy recreation and retire.

High stressed that momentum is already building and urged his listeners to join and support the foundation.

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