McCrory says rural areas can rebound
At the 76th annual Henderson-Vance Chamber of Commerce banquet, Gov. Pat McCrory assured Vance County residents manufacturing and agriculture industries are making a comeback to rural areas of the state.
McCrory was the keynote speaker for Monday night’s banquet, but, instead of making a speech, he answered six submitted questions ranging from the highlights of his first term and goals for the future to ways to improve the local economy.
The former mayor of Charlotte said changes under his administration to update the tax code and make the state more attractive to corporations have lowered the statewide unemployment rate.
“Instead of being the fifth highest, we are now not even in the top 30,” McCrory said. “But we still have a ways to go, including this town.”
While the state jobless rate has fallen to 6.9 percent, Vance County is still close to double digits at 9.2 percent in December. It remains among the state’s worst, ranking 91 of 100.
McCrory said his administration is committed to training the rural workforce in advanced manufacturing jobs.
In response to the governor’s push for vocational training, the state Board of Education has created a high school curriculum track that is designed to prepare students for skilled labor jobs.
But McCrory said rural counties, like Vance, need to revitalize manufacturing and agriculture while capitalizing on the area’s resources.
“For the first time in commerce history, we are identifying and doing a very extensive analysis of each individual industry: Is this industry growing? Is it stable? Will it be around in the future?” he said. “That will determine where we put our potential incentives in the future.
“We are targeting the rural areas with more emphasis because the Charlottes and the Raleighs are getting natural recruits. Right now, with the economy coming back, we are getting a lot of bites to the apple. In this county, we are going to have to recruit and recruit hard. We are going to have to find the niche and the vision on how we are going to sell this region of the state and how we are going to connect this region to other economic pockets through infrastructure, through transportation, communication and education.”
McCrory highlighted Kerr Lake as a potential niche.
“Your travel and tourism opportunities are second to none,” he said. “You have one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. So we are going to need to know how to sell it and how to package it.”
McCrory also addressed his new plan for teacher pay raises unveiled Monday at Ragsdale High School in Jamestown.
“Not having a pay raise for five years was wrong,” he said. “We solved that today.”
His plan will increase starting teacher pay by $2,200 this year and by an additional $2,000 the following year. Beginning teachers will receive a salary increase from the current base rate of $30,800 to $35,000, up 14 percent.
Still, some say the plan is not enough.
The N.C. Association of Educators released a statement Monday criticizing McCrory’s plan for falling short of a comprehensive long-range salary compensation plan for all teachers.
If the plan is approved by the state legislature, teacher pay would increase to $33,000 during the 2014-15 school year and $35,000 the following year.
McCrory also announced plans Monday to extend supplemental pay for teachers with master’s degrees to those who have completed coursework in a graduate program as of July 1, 2013. The supplement for a master’s degree was ended by the legislature in the last budget.
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