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My turn, Greg Edds: Rowan County will persevere, emerge stronger, better than before outbreak

By Greg Edds

What a difference a few weeks make.

For the past several years, Rowan County has been setting the table for much-anticipated growth and economic prosperity that seems to have been eluding us in the past.

We’ve all become proficient at reciting our long list of community assets: Location; I-85; a new interchange; U.S. 70 and U.S. 29; water; energy; parks; the arts; restaurants; agriculture; manufacturing; quality tourist attractions; festivals; parades; colleges; a K-12 system that the whole nation is watching; quality medical care; the W.G. “Bill Hefner V.A. Medical Center; mega-employers Food Lion, Freightliner, Cheerwine and, now, Chewy; and the list goes on.

And our most important asset?  Our people. We are welcoming, and compassionate and generous and kind.

There’s no question that the recent COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge gut punch for Rowan County and our nation. Over the years, Rowan County has seen its share of company closings and we’ve watched thousands of jobs lost in a single day. But we could never have imagined that we’d have to deal with a crisis of this width and depth. Even a hurricane gives us fair warning, has limited reach and we can predict its eventual passing.

I am extremely encouraged by the quality and professional capacity of those who are in charge of our county’s COVID-19 response, and I am grateful for the leadership and tireless work they are doing on our behalf. County Manager Aaron Church, Emergency Services Chief Chris Soliz, Emergency Management Division Chief T.J. Brown and Health Department Director Nina Oliver are coordinating our response team. They each display unique organizational capabilities and are providing extraordinary community leadership.

The older I get, the more I seek to recognize and celebrate life’s true heroes. A friend of mine from Atlanta has started writing a Facebook post every day giving thanks for the things and the people that she admits she’s often taken for granted. Recently, many of our valuable citizens have been deemed “essential” workers by state leaders.

Often overlooked and always under-appreciated and under-thanked, they continue to do their job while the rest of the community “shelters in place.” Among others, they include folks who pick up our garbage, the cashiers at our grocery stores and pharmacies, the waitresses running orders out to the cars in the parking lot and the hotel workers. They include our churches; our city, town and county workers who continue to see that our communities run as smoothly as smooth can be these days; our compassion-filled teachers and bus drivers who deliver tens of thousands of meals a day to our home-bound school children; the cafeteria staffs that do all the cooking; the power company linemen; utility workers; police officers and sheriff’s deputies; our firefighters and our EMS workers. These men and women continue to roll up and down Rowan County’s roads to confront our personal emergencies 24/7 — never a hesitation. To them, it’s not a job. It’s their character. It’s their calling. It’s their heart.

Don’t get me wrong. Our local and national economy is a beautifully complicated machine with diverse parts made up of valuable people with remarkable skills. They perform jobs that we need personally and that benefit our community greatly. If you’ve ever had a pipe burst at 2 a.m., you’ve contemplated the value of a good plumber.

But the current COVID-19 crisis has brought new attention to our medical professionals and how they consistently care for us and our loved ones. Most of us know a nurse or may have one in our family, and we mostly consider nursing to be an honorable calling but with harsh hours. Now? True heroes and as “front line” as any front line can be. Finally, we now recognize that they’ve been consistently performing their jobs at great personal risk and with little fanfare.

To our medical community, please know that you have Rowan County’s greatest respect and our sincere thanks. You are in our prayers.

Whether our local “curve” is steep or flat, Rowan County will be faced with yet another recovery.

There’s good news and bad news. 

First the bad news: We’ve done recovery before.

Now, the good news: This time, things are going to be different, better, smarter. 

I’m fully convinced that Rowan’s past challenges have taught us lessons that will help propel us toward a rapid, robust recovery. It’s true that we’ve never been through a challenge like this, but I sincerely believe that, as a community, we are in a much better position today than ever before. We have key leaders in place that have been recruited from all over the U.S. They are among the very top in their respective professions and they are all here, right now, working as a team to get us through this crisis and then to help us recover and take our place as a leader in our regional, state and national economy.

Our local economy is fundamentally strong. Our education leadership is laser-focused on aligning with each another, with our economic development commission’s goals and with local employers. Like never before, our community is increasingly a target for new retail, manufacturing, industrial, supply chain and distribution operations from across the U.S. and around the world. We have land, critical infrastructure, the people, the training capacity, part of one of the fastest growing regions in America and located in a great state.

Rowan County, be encouraged but also be an encourager. Let’s all do our part to get through this current crisis. Help a neighbor, thank an emergency worker, a nurse, a cashier. Buy take-out from a locally-owned restaurant. Tip the waitress like he or she was your own kid.

Be kind to one another. Be positive. And know that when this crisis is over, our families, our businesses and our community will emerge stronger and better than ever before.    

Greg Edds is chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.

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