CoColumbus Co. officials traveling to China to try to land jobs - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Columbus Co. officials traveling to China to try to land jobs for county

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COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Some elected officials from Columbus County are getting ready for an important trip -- they're flying to China Friday night in hopes of landing jobs for the county.

Economic Director Gary Lanier, three county commissioners, and a business owner are making the trip.

Lanier says the county is seeing an impact from when Chinese officials visited Columbus County last year. According to Lanier, the county was in the running to get a Chinese-owned factory.

"Just the fact that, out of the whole nation, it came down to Columbus County, New Hanover County, and Mobile, Alabama...quite frankly, they went with Mobile because it's closer to customers in South America," said Lanier. 

But Steve Kehrer, the owner of Torus Energy Group in Delco, disagrees with county officials focusing on China.

"China mostly invests in technologies, biotech, and consumer production," Kehrer said. "I was concerned about sending taxpayers money in a country that invests in those areas."

He believes his new company, which will make coolers for grocery stores, is a better option. But according to Kehrer, the county's economic director wasn't too excited when he caught up with him this week.

"[He was] more concerned about going to China and what China needed," said Kehrer. "They needed to prepare for China, and 'We'll talk with you when we get back from China.' By then I'll have most of my questions answered."

"No official public or anything else can just drop everything and immediately respond to everything to people who called you this morning and want to meet tomorrow," said Lanier. 

With jobs remaining the focus right now, Lanier says he does plan to meet with Kehrer when he gets back.

The three Columbus County commissioners are paying their own way to China and will be there a week. The economic director plans to stay a few extra days to attend meetings. 

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