Moore County has benefited from some of the economic and social trends that carried people through the COVID-19 pandemic. Golf is booming, small town living is gaining momentum and people are, generally, spending less and saving more.

“The greater use of telecommunications technology has changed travel patterns and commerce patterns. That will have a lasting effect,” said First Bancorp CEO Richard Moore. “We also see people shifting from urban apartments to more spacious, single-family living in the suburbs and rural areas. This isn’t just here, that goes for everywhere in the Southeast.

Richard Moore, CEO of First Bancorp (FBNC)

Moore was the keynote speaker last Tuesday at an event sponsored by Moore 100, a subgroup of Partners in Progress. A native of Granville County, Moore began his career in public service in 1999, as a federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of North Carolina. He was elected to the N.C. House of Representatives in 1992, and appointed as Secretary of the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety in 1995, before serving two terms as N.C. State Treasurer.

He joined the First Bancorp’s board of directors in 2010, and was shortly after named president and CEO. He has also chaired the N.C. State Banking Commission and served on the Board of Executives of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), and is a former trustee of Wake Forest University.

Moore helped spearhead First Bank’s corporate headquarters move from Troy to Southern Pines in 2013 and its expansion to become North Carolina’s largest community bank. First Bank was recognized in 2021, for the third year in a row, by Forbes magazine as Best-In-State Bank, the only bank in North Carolina to receive the award.

Moore said Moore County’s population has also increased over the last decade, growing 13 percent, and is one of only two rural counties to see this level of growth outside of the North Carolina coast or major metropolitan areas.

“This place has it going on. So how do you handle that kind of growth while holding onto the charm? That is important. I know there are challenges but I’d rather take the problems of a growing tax base over a shrinking tax base 100 times over.”

Moore credited Bob Dedman, Jr., Pinehurst Resort owner and CEO, for creating what he described as a “cluster of excellence” that drives the local economy.

“To try and meet the resort more than half way, I’d do that first,” Moore said. “Then, focus on the business experience, the family experience and the logistical experience.”

He encouraged local business and elected officials in attendance at the Moore 100 meeting to focus on increasing broadband and keep up with infrastructure, including water and sewer, and also parks and recreation amenities, to meet lasting demand as a result of pandemic impacts.

“You have limited dollars but the tax base is growing. You’re going to have to spend some money, both the municipalities and county. It is always a fight. People don’t want to pay more in taxes but if you get too far from your golden goose, it will be a mistake.”

Moore’s third charge to local leaders and civic groups was to increase diversity in its workforce and leadership development, to achieve an inclusive environment.

“When you look around the table and everyone is like everybody else, that is not the future. The future is listening to people who might not have been raised the way you are or think the way you do. I don’t think people know how important inclusiveness is from not only a political but business standpoint.”

(Story by Laura Douglass, The Pilot)