Last updated: April 16. 2014 1:27PM - 4180 Views
By - bshiles@civitasmedia.com

Converse employed more than 2,000 people before abandoning this site off N.C. 72 in the 1990s. Duke will do a study to see if it would be a good site to push for economic development.
Converse employed more than 2,000 people before abandoning this site off N.C. 72 in the 1990s. Duke will do a study to see if it would be a good site to push for economic development.
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LUMBERTON — The Robeson County’s economic developer is banking on participation in Duke Energy’s 2014 Site Readiness Program to attract an industrial or manufacturing business to a 257-acre tract of former farmland in Lumberton near the old Converse plant.

“This site is centrally located and all infrastructure is in place,” Cummings said. “It’s centrally located, isolated and has access to rail, which is something many businesses looking today for a place to locate or expand want.”

Cummings said that after two years on the waiting list, Duke Energy Progress has selected the site as part of its 2014 Site Readiness Program, a program designed to study potential development sites, provide recommendations for communitiesto attract new businesses and jobs, and help market sites that are found to have business recruitment potential.

The Robeson County Office of Economic Development and Committee of 100 are partnering with the utility to study the site, which Cummings said is located close to Interstate 95 and easily assessable to N.C. 711, N.C. 72 and U.S. 74. Cummings said that the site is “critical” for the county’s future economic development, and will help Robeson County be competitive with neighboring states, including Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, when it comes to industrial recruitment.

Duke Energy has hired McCallum Sweeney Consuslting, which Cummings said has an excellent national and international reputation in the area of business recruitment and expansion, to conduct the site study. The utility will work with land use planners to develop plans for developing the site.

According to a Duke news release, the utility company, McCallum Sweeney and professional land-use planners, will present their recommendations for developing the site to Robeson County officials and community leaders by late summer.

Cummings said that after recommendations are received, county officials will decide if the process should proceed. Study recommendations cannot be implemented without the approval of county officials, he said.

Cummings said that if the recommendations are implemented, Duke Energy will market the site nationwide to companies looking to relocate or expand their operations.

“This site will play a critical part in stimulating job growth and investment in the county,” Cummings said. “It will play a major role in strengthening our economy.”

State Sen. Michael Walters, who represents Robeson County in Raleigh, said that being part of Duke’s program will be a big boost to the county’s business and job recruitment efforts.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said.

The Robeson County site is just one of five in North Carolina to be selected by Duke Energy Progress to be part of its 2014 Site Readiness Program.

Converse was once one of Robeson County’s largest private employers, with more than 2,000 workers. But the the plant closed in the mid-1990s following the NAFTA trade agreement that sent many textile plants to other countries.

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