UNC-TV came to UNC Pembroke on October 13 to tape the first of a series of town hall meetings on economic development in North Carolina’s rural communities.
NC Rising Panel – From left: Steve Yost, Dr. Freda Porter, Archie Hart, Dr. Larry Keen, Chancellor Charles Jenkins and UNC-TV’s Shannon Vickery. UNCP hosts UNC-TV interactive town hall meeting.
“NC Rising” was taped live in the James B. Chavis University Center Annex and gave 125 students, faculty, staff and community members a behind the scenes look at a major public television production.
There were five cameras and a crew of approximately 20 that arrived eight hours before show time. “NC Rising’ took questions beforehand via the Internet and on the floor. The audience responded to survey questions using remote-control devices.
The show, which evolved from host Shannon Vickery’s “North Carolina Now” program, was aired 24 hours later on October 14. The panel consisted of:
- UNCP Chancellor Charles Jenkins,
- UNCP Board of Trustees Chair and Porter Scientific CEO Dr. Freda Porter,
- Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) President Larry Keen,
- Steve Yost, an economic developer from NC Southeast and
- Archie Hart, representing the North Carolina Agricultural Commissioner.
Vickery reminded the audience of the problems facing rural North Carolina – lost manufacturing, poverty, dropouts and outmigration of population. The questions started rolling, and the panel all said it was a new day and new mindset is needed.
“We face a competitive global marketplace with many opportunities and challenges,” Yost said. “We can no longer rest on our laurels because other countries are catching up to us in manufacturing and other areas.”
Dr. Porter said the recent economic downturn has added to business challenges.
“The times dictate that business models breakdown in this economy,” Dr. Porter said. “We must think beyond our normal operating schemes to make things work.”
The farm economy, without tobacco as its cash crop, is changing too.
“Our farmers are becoming more efficient, and we are now the third most agriculturally diversified state in the nation,” Hart said. “We are developing direct markets for North Carolina’s farmers to feed North Carolinians.”
Educators are feeling the challenge and responding to it, said FTCC’s president.
“The days of industry following cheap labor here are over,” Dr. Keen said. “Now it’s time to train our workforce appropriately.”
“We need to change our focus,” Chancellor Jenkins said. “For too long we have focused on schools, and now it is time to focus on parents.”
Chancellor Jenkins said far too many students, including college students, are dropping out. He said rural North Carolinians must be more entrepreneurial and their universities have a role to play.
“We have a responsibility to lead,” Dr. Jenkins said. “However, our greatest impact is being the most outstanding university that we can be.”
Chancellor Jenkins said UNCP is building community service into its faculty evaluation model. Others said working cooperatively is critical to success.
“We must tear down the silos,” Yost said. “The most innovative way to achieve success is through collaboration.”
Dr. Porter offered the example of COMtech, the business incubator in Pembroke, as a model of successful collaboration.
“COMtech is an incredible success story that would not have been possible without the collaboration of education, business and local, state and federal government,” she said. “There are 1,200 jobs out there to attest to that.”
When asked by Vickery what viewers should “take away” from the town hall meeting, Chancellor Jenkins said “a more positive attitude.”
“The past 10 years at this University show that we can be successful,” Dr. Jenkins said. “If we don’t believe there is a future here, there won’t be one.”
Dr. Keen agreed, “The future of southeastern North Carolina dictates a change in our outlook. We must have higher expectations with a sense of urgency.”