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Chamber of Commerce to present priority projects at Thursday breakfast

SALISBURY — The Rowan Chamber of Commerce will present a list of its 2020-21 state priority projects at its state legislative breakfast on Thursday.

The projects relate to transportation, infrastructure, education and workforce development, economic development and healthcare improvements.

Each year, the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce helps compile a list of projects and advocacy to prioritize for the betterment of the community. The list is then presented at the state and federal level.

“(The chamber) helps lobby for major projects and programs that are going to improve the community and maintain a healthy business climate,” said Elaine Spalding, the president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.

Among the projects is support for a parallel taxiway on the west side of the runway at Mid-Carolina Regional Airport. The project will affect approximately 10 acres of the airfield and help prepare for future development of the west side of the airport. The total estimated cost is nearly $14 million.

Other infrastructure-related projects include an emphasis on highways and road projects, including a new exit at East Spencer on Interstate 85 and McCanless Road. The chamber is also seeking to modify state regulations for funding water and wastewater extensions for new or existing companies as well as increased access to broadband internet access across the state.

On the list for education and workforce development is an emphasized support for securing balanced funding for short-term workforce training programs — internships and apprenticeships — to provide opportunities in manufacturing, distribution, administration and healthcare.

For Rowan-Salisbury Schools, there’s a request of equal or greater funding for 2020-21 on the list as well as increased compensation for educators. Another item calls for an examination of the state’s school accountability model — the A-F grading scale.

The Chamber of Commerce notes that it supports a proposed $45 million bond referendum that would provide a Technology Education Complex at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. It calls for support of the facility on the local level and grant funding on the state level. The bond referendum will be on the ballot for voters on March 3.

As North Carolina is ranked 44th in the country in terms of pay, the chamber also supports salary increases for community college employees and funding for enrollment growth.

For economic development, the chamber lists a recalculation of the required average wages paid for projects that receive the Job Development and Investment Grant and Building Reuse grants. Some of the economic developments on the list carried over from last year, she said.

As for health care, the list includes the chamber’s support for Medicaid reform that allows providers to lead a “cost-saving transformational model,” and incentives for businesses that offer wellness programs to their employees.

Additionally, Spalding said the chamber wants to highlight the importance of its support for mitigating the opioid crisis in North Carolina, as it affects both the local community and local economy.

And though this year’s legislative session is not about balancing the budget, Spalding said, the chamber wants to keep the list in legislators’ minds so they can help or lead the county in the right direction for funding.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at (704) 797-4246.

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