Creating jobs and lowering the unemployment rate was uppermost on the minds of elected officials when they met with Senator Tom McInnis. While paying a visit to the area as part of a listening tour, McInnis asked the group to share their greatest needs and wants and what they could collaboratively agree on that could be accomplished with the greatest effect in the shortest time period for the least amount of money.
Commissioner John Alford said workforce training must be continuous and currently it takes too long. Industries must communicate the specialized fields that they want to fill. Chair Carol McCall said workforce development was a top priority in a strategic planning session the Commissioners recently conducted. McCall said the current resources — the career training at the high school, Richmond Community College and the workforce development board — all are operating in silos. “There’s a gap between the education, the students and the opportunity that’s in the middle,” said McCall. “We don’t connect the student with the opportunity, and we need to figure out a way to do that.”
She added that the process would involve making parents aware there are jobs available and training for those jobs. “For us to know about the training and for the parents to think there are no jobs, we’re missing something out there. We have to bring that all together in one package to present to the students and their parents,” McCall explained.
McInnis said, “We’ve got to engage more people than we’ve got here today.” McInnis suggested that Richmond, Anson and Scotland County officials get together to determine if the common ground might be a regional vocational opportunity. “Forget the county lines. I don’t want us to be competitive. I want us to see how we can together as a region,” said McInnis, explaining that regional partnerships provide more funding opportunities. Commissioner Bob Davis said people in vocational careers command a lot of money these days, and it’s important for parents to know that.
Other issues discussed included a more equitable distribution of sales tax dollars, explore the possibility of counties receiving revenue from State game lands and consideration of I74 being developed into an interstate sooner rather than later.
McInnis praised Laurinburg-Maxton Airport calling it “the best kept secret in North Carolina.” McInnis said he has reached out to U.S. Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis and U.S. Representative Robert Pittenger about designating LMA as a port of entry with a customs house. “You give me a good idea, and I don’t care where it comes from, I’m going to run with I, and I planted that seed,” McInnis said.