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Thomas Center’s business is promoting entrepreneurship

LUMBERTON — All of the services needed by an individual wanting to start and maintain a business that can thrive and grow in Robeson County are available at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s Thomas Center for Entrepreneurship, according to the center’s executive director.

“Our mission is to do things,” said Carman F. Calabrese, the keynote speaker Tuesday at the annual Robeson County Industrial Appreciation Dinner held at the Holiday Inn in Lumberton. “We educate students in entrepreneurship as well as provide consulting for entrepreneurs and their new ventures.”

About 100 public officials and members of the business community attended the event, which is held to show the county’s appreciation for all that local businesses and industries do to stimulate the region’s economy.

“We can’t say enough about the individuals who are here tonight,” Noah Woods, chairman of the county’s Board of Commissioners, told the crowd during his opening remarks. “They bring a lot of money into Robeson County. We can’t thank them enough.”

Calabrese began his presentation by defining the term entrepreneur, which he said is French for a “person who takes a risk.”

“Our mission is here (at the center) is to create wealth,” he said. “You have to create wealth first and then jobs will follow.”

During his brief presentation, the director said that the center focuses on education, planning and community engagement that provides people the skills needed to get a business up and running and sustain it.

“We offer students the training needed so they can start a business and stay in the area,” he said. “We also have about 40 businesses that we do consulting for.”

As an example of an entrepreneur who has been successful in starting and maintaining a business in Robeson County, Greg Cumming, the county’s industrial developer, pointed to Martin Gibbons, president of Titan Flow Controls and Flo-Tite Inc. in Lumberton. Gibbons was named Tuesday as Robeson County’s “Industrialist of the Year.”

Flo-Tite specializes in the design and manufacture of metal seated ball valves and automation equipment. It’s a global company that exports and imports products from around the world, including China, Taiwan, and Europe.

“We have been successful and we hope to expand our company,” Gibbons said “We feel very confident that we can do this even as bad as the economy is.”

Cummings said that he anticipates some positive economic activity to take place in Robeson County during the coming year.

“Last year was a tough one, but exciting,” he said. “I think we are going to see some good things in 2013. There’s a lot of activity going on. We just have to hope that we can score on some of these activities.”

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