ELIZABETHTOWN — U.S. Congressman Robert Pittenger (R-NC) made his second stop in Bladen County in four days on Monday, speaking to a group of economic development stakeholders at the Southeastern Economic Development Commission’s 49th annual meeting.
At Cape Fear Vineyard & Winery in Elizabethtown, Pittenger spoke to around 100 economic development professionals including representatives from North Carolina’s Senate and House, county managers from the southeastern portion of the state, county commissioners, community college representatives, county planners, and university presidents.
After some light humor about a man who asked to be hanged rather than listen to a speech by a congressman, Pittenger turned serious about his focus in Washington.
“We have a clear vision of what needs to be done … We need to get rid of regulatory burdens,” he said. “Easy credit scores, low down payments, and easy access to capital have created a quagmire.”
He noted a 40-percent reduction in the number of banks in North Carolina today when compared with seven years ago and the merger, just in the last month, of three banks unable to withstand what he called “overreaching” compliance costs and regulations.
“We’re doing everything we can to reduce the regulatory burden today,” he told guests.
Describing himself at one point as belonging to the Jeffersonian philosophy of government, he noted the only duty assigned to the federal government in the U.S. Constitution is to protect America from enemies domestic and abroad, and everything else should fall to state governments.
“One of the reasons we’re taking Medicaid back to the states is for accountability,” he said, describing how the system is being bled dry by state or local employees giving out benefits the federal government pays for. “There’s no accountability there.”
Pittinger applauded President Trump’s focus on border control, informed guests he has written numerous letters to the president on behalf of hog and sweet potato farmers, and also noted he voted to appropriate $485 million to the treatment of opioid abuse.
After opening up the floor for questions and reiterating the need for less bureaucracy for small business owners, Pittenger informed guests his office has a representative in the Elizabethtown Town Council chamber the first and third Tuesdays of every month from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in order to hear from constituents.
After hearing from Pittenger, SEDC members entered into business. Chairman Gary Lanier from Columbus County urged guests to talk to congressmen about continued funding for SEDC’s parent organization, the Economic Development Administration. New officers were elected, including New Hanover County’s Randall Johnson for chairman, Cumberland County representative Amy Cannon as vice chairman, and Bladen County member Chuck Heustess as secretary/treasurer.
The SEDC was established in 1968 under the EDA to foster and promote economic growth in southeastern North Carolina. Since its inception, the Elizabethtown-based organization has secured more than $83.3 million in EDA financial assistance for public facility projects in the twelve-country district. Counties served include Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, New Hanover, Pender, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson and Scotland.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.