Once upon a time in the south, a town’s worth was measured in the number of textile mills it had. The economy and politics drove those jobs off shore and left us looking for something, anything, to replace them.
What we might have forgotten is the role our natural resources play in our future.
According to a study released last month by the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business, natural resources contribute nearly $30 billion annually to that state’s economy, while more than 230,000 jobs are tied to related business activities.
We have to believe that North Carolina’s numbers are as great or greater. The following facts from 2008 were listed in the report:
• South Carolina’s beaches added about $3.5 billion to the state’s economy and supported nearly 81,000 jobs.
• Fishing, hunting and wildlife viewing added about $2.2 billion to the economy and supported nearly 59,000 jobs.
• The state’s forestry industry exported more than $1 billion in forest products and supported nearly 84,000 jobs.
• The boat-building industry added nearly $400 million to the state’s economy and supported more than 9,500 jobs.
• Mining activities added nearly $219 million to the state’s economy and supported more than 2,500 jobs.
• Commercial marine fisheries in South Carolina added about $14 million to the state’s economy and supported 661 jobs.
Outdoor activities can play a role in the economic matrix. Just look at the shooting event at Dewitt’s Outdoor Sports in Ellerbe last weekend. It drew more than 150 shooters and provided an economic boost to local restaurants and motels.
As the economy recovers from the recession and “expands in the years ahead, these impacts will grow,” the report said. “Natural resources should always be considered integral to economic development.”
Another impact, the study found, is that talented people — the kind the state wants to retain — live in areas with quality natural resource-related amenities and recreational opportunities.
With these factors in mind, protecting our natural resources should be an important part of Richmond County’s economic development strategy.