Economic prospects for the Town of Robbins are looking brighter for the new year. The Town is hoping to take advantage of grants from the N.C. Department of Commerce that provide a kickstart for any new businesses looking to move to towns and reuse those old properties.

One such potential incoming business, being kept confidential by town officials for now and referred to only as “Project Scotland” until a deal is complete, is a “good fit” for Robbins, Robbins Town Manager Clint Mack said. The company is eyeing one of Robbins’ former industrial sites, and the town Board of Commissioners approved a resolution of support for any building reuse grant earlier this month at its meeting.

“Certain businesses will fit our area. We take pride in being a blue-collar town that wants people to have skills and go to work, whether that’s high-end technical or medium skill,” Mack said.

Mack has taken great pride in getting town employees to work with business leaders and prospective new companies. Robbins employees have made accommodations in the past to clear schedules or work outside of normal business hours to speak with any business that is eyeing the town for a move.

“Most of the businesses like that we’re accessible. We have no problem coming in at 5:30 because you’ve got a flight at 7:30. We’ll bring in Starbucks and just talk about zoning and fire code and all that kind of stuff,” he said.

Mack said the state’s reuse grant can help to retain businesses in the state, and especially in rural areas like Robbins.

Robbins has used that grant in the past, most recently to help renovate an existing building to help the expansion of Minhas Furniture’s footprint in the town and double its workforce.

Robbins has used the help of Moore County Partners in Progress to entice businesses looking to move or expand to the central part of the state. The town and many other rural areas of Moore County fall in an ideal location on the periphery of the N.C. Carolina Core area where several major industrial sites have been announced in recent years.

“Natalie (Hawkins) and Partners in Progress, their arms reach so far with what business needs, more so than I could ever dream of,” Mack said. “She has worked with us to understand what we need. A short-term contract type business that comes in, wham, bam, and then leaves is really not what we are looking for.”

Hawkins, in her role as executive director of the agency, has seen a lot of interest in the northernmost municipality in the county.

“We had three active clients looking really, really hard at Robbins recently,” Hawkins said.

“From my experience, to have three clients looking at Robbins all at the same time is a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful signal to the fact that Robbins does have a lot to offer the business community in terms of labor and access to interstates. Those are kind of the big reasons that I heard folks wanted to go up there.”

With a rise in interest in the area, Mack hopes other current, and even potential industrial sites, could see an increase in interest as well.

“Momentum is good,” Hawkins said. “There’s momentum to build all over Moore County, not just in Robbins.”

Momentum can be further accelerated through the Golden LEAF SITE program that Robbins was accepted for earlier this year. The program helps identify potential industrial sites that are being cataloged, and that gives the town a better feel of the needs for the sites to recruit businesses to those areas in the future, Hawkins said.

With upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant in the town through FEMA grants following hurricanes Matthew and Florence, that area of infrastructure is improving for the town. Other grants and loans have continued to upgrade water systems and roads.

(Original story by Jonathan Bym, The Pilot)