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If You Build It, Will They Come?

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TARBORO — In some parts of North Carolina, finding a job is almost impossible. People in 13 counties where the struggle is most difficult may soon get a second chance to succeed.

A bill nicknamed the "BEE" bill, which stands for Best Economic Enhancements, would pump $26 million into the 13 poorest counties in the state to attract more newcomers to those areas.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the bill that will affect counties likeEdgecombe,Halifax, Warren and Northampton, which have the highest unemployment and lowest income levels in the state.

Supporters hope the bill can turn the 13 counties around. One use of the money could turn an empty field in Edgecombe County into an industrial site for hundreds of new employees.

"When you look at a 154 acre tract of land, you hopefully are going to attract anywhere from $20 to $50 million in investment," says Oppie Jordan, vice president of the Edgecombe Economic Development Office.

Edgecombe is currently pursuing grants that could make it happen.

The money could also be used for specific purposes, such as fixing up existing property or attracting tourists. Combine those changes with other economic incentives, and they say industries will give the area a closer look.

"They look at not only the incentives being offered there, but what is the area like that you're asking me to move to," says Rep. Cherie Berry. "So these funds ... go right to the heart of our counties that need help the most."

The bill would only provide money to counties that have a plan to make more money with it. Supporters now say it is time to turn the bill into law.

"Eastern folks now are going to have to get on the phone, call their legislators, e-mail them, write them a letter," says Rep. Howard Hunter. "We're going to do our part."

Lawmakers are hoping to get the legislation passed in July.

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Brian Bowman, Reporter
Brian Bowman, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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