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Rowan group travels to D.C. for business summit

A group of 13 Rowan County representatives traveled to the U.S. Capitol this week to push local priorities as part of the 2015 North Carolina Business and Economic Development Summit.

The summit — hosted by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-8 — included presentations from a number of politicians and business leaders. Rowan County’s group also held one-on-one meetings with elected officials representing North Carolina to push local priority projects. Among the priorities were an Interstate 85 interchange with Old Beatty Ford Road and extension of Rowan County’s runway to 6,000 feet.

Rowan County’s Chamber of Commerce coordinated the trip to Washington D.C. Chamber President Elaine Spalding said the trip was important for the organization because of its core function.

“We are a business advocacy group,” Spalding said. “We are here to advocate on behalf of the business community to make sure our community continues to be a healthy business environment.”

The chamber’s four priority issue categories were transportation, business advocacy, education and economic development and health care. Rowan’s two transportation priorities — the I-85 interchange and airport runway extension — may be the most prominent individual items.

Other individual priorities included: supporting federal grants for literacy improvement and workforce development, revising the current federal income tax code, advocating for a bipartisan bill that supports open Internet principles, rewarding employer-led wellness strategies that promote behavioral and lifestyle changes and focus on identifying and leveraging private sector solutions to health-care challenges.

Tim Norris, government affairs chairman for the Rowan Chamber, said the trip isn’t necessarily intended to ensure elected officials are able to speed up projects. Instead, Norris said, it’s important to keep local projects at the forefront of state and national priorities.

“It’s our job to just continuously make sure our elected officials are aware of these projects so they don’t fall off their radar screen,” Norris said.

Members of the Rowan group met with representatives of offices for all U.S. members of Congress representing Rowan County, including both senators.

Frank Goodnight, who runs Diversified Graphics in Salisbury, said the meetings help congressmen and women match a face with the people of Rowan County.

“If we have a problem in our state, we can call up and they’ll know who we are,” Goodnight said. “That’s an important thing, regardless of the issue.”

As part of the N.C. Business and Economic Development Summit, the Rowan group attended presentations from Gov. Pat McCrory, N.C. Secretary of Transportation Nick Tennyson, all North Carolina members of Congress and members of Congress from other states.

A total of 150 organizations attended the event, according to Hudson’s office. In a statement, Hudson said cumbersome federal regulations were a focal point of the summit.

“Whether it’s the EPA’s ozone rule, Dodd Frank, or Obamacare, bureaucratic red-tape and the cost of complying with burdensome regulations are a huge drag on our economy,” Hudson said in the statement. “It’s clear that we agree the key to our success is getting Washington out of our way, and I remain committed to doing just that.”

Goodnight recalled the Iran nuclear deal — intended to reduce economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a diminished nuclear program — being talked about frequently. Goodnight said he asked U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis how average North Carolina residents might be able to help halt the deal.

Goodnight recalled Tillis responding, “just pray.”

Members of the Rowan group who traveled to Washington D.C. included: Norris; City Councilwoman and KKA Architecture owner Karen Alexander; city council candidate and software engineer Roy Bentley; local realtor Karla Foster; Jeremy Gardner, who works at KKA Architecture; Goodnight; Denise Hallett, of Vulcan Materials Company; Terry Osborne, Rowan County ABC Manager; Spalding; Janet Spriggs, of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College; Pete Teague, of Dixon Hughes Goodman; Robert Van Geons, Rowan Works Economic Development director; and Wilson Cherry, of Rowan Vocational Opportunities.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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