Sneak peek at Northampton’s future

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 5, 2007

LASKER – The who’s who of Northampton County turned out at the Northampton County Chamber of Commerce annual banquet.

On June 28, government officials and representatives sat among local business owners at Valley Pine Country Club, giving all an opportunity to network—an important “must do” for any business.

“This past year has been very successful,” said Director of the Northampton Chamber of Commerce Judy Collier.

Collier listed endeavors reach by the Chamber with the help of local and state government, including a hotel occupancy tax and a resolution in support of research into establishing a Northeastern North Carolina Heritage area.

Collier reported the Northampton County Chamber of Commerce’s web site receives 40,000 hits a month and shared plans for the Chamber’s future.

She said there are hopes for the Northampton County Visitor’s Center to be opened five days a week instead of three days and possibly get some part time help.

“We plan on working closer with the EDC (Economic Development Commission),” Collier said.

State Representative (D-27th), Chamber member and guest speaker Michael Wray spoke of his home county fondly.

“Business is community,” said Wray. “Mom and Pop operations are the backbone of North Carolina.”

Wray commended Northampton County’s leaders for their work and mentioned both NCCAR (North Carolina Center for Automotive Research) and the Lowe’s Distribution Center as a source of growth.

“They’re (Northampton’s leaders) stepping up to the plate using our tax dollars and using them wisely,” he said.

Wray said it was important for the county to work with organizations to get involved.

“We must never underestimate the power of networking,” he said.

Attendees got a sneak peek at the county’s biggest project in the works—NCCAR.

Northampton County Economic Development Director Gary Brown described NCCAR as the county’s “best kept secret.”

“People here are starting to see it’s going to benefit them,” he said.

Director of Lotus Operations in North Carolina Simon Cobb gave the crowd an overview of NCCAR and showed a map of the future facility.

Cobb described the independent automotive testing facility as a job catalyst for the county with market driving features to make it independent as a non-profit center.

He also explained the types of advanced technologies that will be explored at NCCAR, including autonomous vehicle control (technology desired by the U.S. Army) and sustainable fuel.

The center will feature a 3.7 mile world class ride and handling course with 10 track configurations as well as an advanced chassis dynamics laboratory and a refueling station to include hydrogen and electric charging facilities. 

Cobb also talked about the safety of the facility for those testing their vehicles.

“You can do safe work without hurting people or the product,” Cobb said.

The Chamber also honored exiting board members who served with a combined 36 years of service. Collier presented C.C. Howell, Wendell Edwards, Brown and Harold Miller with plaques of recognition.

Broadnax Diner was named business of the year. The Seaboard eatery is owned by Johnny and Carolyn Lassiter, who were presented with a plaque of recognition as well.

The Chamber also honored Betty Lou Barnes as the Chamber Volunteer of the Year.

Marshall Cherry with Roanoke Electric, Debra Field with RBC Centura Bank, Marshall Lassiter with the Town of Severn, Gene St. Clair with Roanoke Porta-Johns and Ruby Ward with Halifax Community College were voted onto the Chamber board.