Warren County 2012: Mourning for Hedgepeth felt from college campus to tribe

Jan. 09, 2013 @ 06:00 AM

Numerous projects designed to take advantage of Warren County’s many assets moved forward in 2012.

But attention to those projects was interrupted in September when Faith Hedgepeth, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi tribe, was killed in Chapel Hill, where she was a sophomore at the University of North Carolina.

Hedgepeth was a popular member of the tribe, and very active in it and the Warrenton community. She was also an active student at UNC, where candlelight vigils brought out students by the hundreds.

The sanctuary of Mt. Bethel Baptist Church in the Warren County community of Hollister was overflowing at a memorial service for Hedgepeth, a 2010 graduate of Warren County High School and honor student who participated in many activities celebrating her Native American heritage.

Mourning was widespread, from Chapel Hill to the governor’s mansion to the entire northeast region of the state.

In one aspect of economic development, Warren County became a player in the effort to find substitutes for fossil fuels when two solar installations were constructed during 2012.

One solar array, built on the roof of Warren County High School, will generate 475 kilowatts of power. The school system will be paid $175,000 over 20 years. In addition to power and income, the installation will serve instructional purposes for students at the school.

“It has another effect, a psychological effect,” said Gabriel Cumming, director of economic development for the county. “It marks Warren County as a place where new and innovative things are taking place, which will attract new industry and business.”

Not far away, a 5.6-megawatt solar farm was constructed by Strata Solar on a 40-acre site between Warrenton and Norlina. The power produced by the farm is being sold to Progress Energy.

In both solar projects, a major part of the construction and technical work was handled by local workers and businesses.

Economic development in Warren County reflects the diverse needs of the county. The Triangle North Warren industrial park is being developed as a site for industry. Warrenton Downtown Revitalization is promoted to attract businesses.

The Warren County Economic Development Commission is promoting efforts to capitalize on the county’s major asset — land. A Grow Local/Buy Local initiative encourages farmers to sell produce on the local market. In turn, consumers are reminded that buying local products guarantees freshness while simultaneously recycling Warren County dollars within the county.

Working Landscapes, a Warren County non-profit organization, is developing produce packs, which contain locally grown vegetables and fruits packed in dollar amounts that correspond to the vouchers issued by the Women, Infant and Children supplemental nutrition program. Vegetables and fruits are bought from local farmers, packed and marketed in cooperating stores in Warren County.

But Warren County is looking outward also. To offer local products and services to a wider market, the Chamber of Commerce has provided training on the use of the Internet to expand its members’ sales opportunities from face-to-face transactions to include a worldwide clientele.

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.