LUMBERTON — The communities of Lumberton and Pembroke will receive almost $5 million in state Golden LEAF Foundation grants to assist in Hurricane Matthew recovery efforts and economic development.
“Both these communities got big money,” said Bo Biggs, a Lumberton businessman who sits on the foundation’s board of directors. “These funds are targeted to towns and counties that suffered serious damage to their infrastructure.”
The Golden LEAF Foundation provides grants that have the potential to boost the state’s long-term economy, especially in areas that are tobacco dependent, economically distressed and rural.
Biggs said the awarded grants are a “very worthy attempt” by the state legislature and Golden LEAF to help bring infrastructure, such as local water systems, back to operating capacity before Hurricane Matthew swept through the area.
“These grants are trying to cover areas where FEMA and insurance are not covering costs of repairs and new construction,” he said.
Lumberton was awarded two grants, according to Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF’s president. One was for $1.266 million to pay for repairs to several public facilities that are not covered by FEMA or insurance. The other grant is for $3 million for infrastructure and drainage repairs and improvements in the Tanglewood area.
Gerlach said the Golden LEAF grant awarded Pembroke was for $310,000 to boost capacity at the town’s water treatment plant so that Trinity Foods can expand its production and add jobs.
“Golden LEAF is proud of our long relationship with Robeson County and we’re proud to play our role in helping the area get back to normal as quickly as possible,” Gerlach said. “As always we are looking for ways to help bring jobs to this tobacco dependent area … .We expect to do more in coming weeks to help with disaster recovery. We understand there is more to do in disaster recovery and we’re ready to do it.”
A second round of applications from counties and communities looking for hurricane disaster relief will be reviewed in June, according to Gerlach.
Gerlach said that the state General Assembly in December allotted Golden LEAF $20 million to use to provide disaster recovery assistance. To date, Gerlach said, $9 million has been awarded.
Wayne Horne, city manager for Lumberton, said that the Golden LEAF funding will go a long way to help with repairing several public buildings throughout the community and improving infrastructure and drainage conditions in the Tanglewood area, near Southeastern Regional Medical Center.
“This will help us deal with older infrastructure in the Tanglewood area,” Horne said. “Some of that infrastructure dates back to the 1960s.”
Greg Cummings, Robeson County’s economic developer and the mayor of Pembroke, said the grant for Trinity Foods, which processes sweet potato products, will help the local economy.
“This will give Trinity Foods the opportunity to expand with new contracts that will increase production, bring in new clients, and upgrade (water) pre-treatment facilities,” Cummings said. “The good news for Robeson County is that there will be greater job growth and an increase in the investment of machinery.”
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.