Developing an attitude
In 2010, Rowan County commissioners unanimously approved an incentive package for an expansion at Boral Bricks in East Spencer. “Thank you for the jobs,” then-Chairman Carl Ford said to Boral representatives.
Last year, commissioners approved at least two other incentive proposals presented by RowanWorks head Robert VanGeons — one for the Gildan Activewear operation on Heilig Road and the other for Ei Pharmaceuticals in the Rowan side of Kannapolis. Together, those two projects are expected to bring as many as 350 jobs to the area over five years.
These examples of economic development all reflect the teamwork and can-do attitude it takes to promote job creation in Rowan County. Taxpayers want to see more jobs and tax-base growth, and they know leaders must share a positive attitude to make it happen.
Speaking recently to the Salisbury Rotary Club, hospital President Dari Caldwell was asked what obstacles Novant Health Rowan Medical Center faces in recruiting new physicians to the area. Two that she mentioned prominently were the county’s current political atmosphere and the need to improve public education. Young doctors and their spouses do considerable research when deciding where to put down new roots. They want to go to progressive, forward-minded communities with top-notch schools. The two factors go hand-in-hand.
The medical field is just one example; businesses choosing where to locate are much the same. Their focus is forward, and while Rowan’s strong infrastructure and abundant resources provide powerful draws, bickering among boards and negativity about education can push people away. High-profile crimes and battles with the ACLU don’t help.
It’s time to get some traction and pull Rowan out of the post-recession slump. Some possible catalysts include:
• Education leadership: Just as President Brien Lewis has been reinvigorating Catawba College since he arrived last year, a new superintendent for the Rowan-Salisbury School System — to be named Monday — could change the dynamics for the schools.
• Education support: The city has stepped up to try to build a central office for the school system. The fate of the project is up in the air awaiting state approval, but the commitment to education is rock solid. The schools are not looked upon as just a county responsibility. Today’s attitude is that everyone has a stake in the success of the schools.
• Education, education, education: In driving economic growth, education is today’s “location, location, location.” Desirable development migrates toward communities with high education standards. Keep that in mind as children return to school this week. The better we educate all children — not just our own, but the whole community’s — the stronger our location will be. The better we educate all children, the more often our county leaders will be able to say, “Thank you for the jobs.”