The motion to put a multibillion-dollar megaport at Southport that could boost an ailing economy in Southeastern North Carolina, including Robeson County’s, appears to have died because of a lack of a second.
No one beyond local officials in the counties and municipalities that stood to benefit economically from the proposed North Carolina International Port Terminal believe it is feasible — not the two candidates running for governor, this state’s congressional legislation, including Rep. Mike McIntyre, or state lawmakers. In fewer words, the ones who count.
They say the $6 billion cost is prohibitive, the global economy doesn’t support the need for such a megaport, it is environmentally risky and will threaten nearby beaches and tourism, and the best strategy is to continue to enhance existing ports at Morehead City and Wilmington. There is also this head-scratcher: The megaport was proposed for a spot in Southport that is tucked in between a nuclear power plant and a military munitions facility, which would make it a dream target for a terrorist attack, creating a national security concern.
Local economic officials have said that the megaport, once constructed, would create the need for regional distribution warehouses inland, where goods coming from China, Central America, Southeast Asia and Europe could be stored until trucked to retail outlets. Robeson County, 100 miles inland and straddling Interstates 95 and 74, would be perfectly positioned for such warehouses, which would create jobs and could potentially become the center of local retail hubs, with shops and restaurants nearby.
But that dream has gone poof, and Robeson County is left once again holding the familiar end of the economic-development stick — the really short one.
It’s possible — though unlikely — that the plan could be resurrected, but that is not likely until the stagnant global economy gets into a higher gear, and even if that were to happen tomorrow, such a megaport would be years or a decade in the making.
Robeson County’s economic hopes in the nearer future depend squarely on Plan B, if one even exists.
Ours would be to put a stop to all the violence, and to get our children educated, but it’s not so easy to implement. If that were already happening, we wouldn’t be in this mess.