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UNC-TV airs town hall meeting
By Hayley Burgess
The series “NC Rising” has been an ongoing series over the last year with a grant by the Golden Leaf Foundation.
The series of reports look at how rural North Carolina is developing economically. The first taping of the town hall meeting was a kick-off for the final part of the project.
About 125 students, faculty, staff and members of the community attended the event held in the James B. Chavis University Center Annex with taping starting at 8 p.m.
A panel of community leaders discussed ways that Pembroke and the surrounding community are dealing with developing economically.
UNC-TV’s Shannon Vickery asked the panel questions about the top issues facing Southeast North Carolina.
On the panel were UNCP Chancellor Charles Jenkins, UNCP Board of Trustees Chair and Porter Scientific CEO Dr. Freda Porter, Fayetteville Technical Community College President Dr. Larry Keen, an economic developer from Southeast North Carolina Steve Yost and a representative of the North Carolina Agricultural Commission Archie Hart.
Problems facing rural North Carolina include loss of manufacturing, school dropouts, poverty and people leaving North Carolina.
The common answer from the panel is to have a positive attitude and to be proactive with education and agriculture.
The main challenge for the region is trying to compete in the global economy.
“We face a very competitive global economy with many opportunities and challenges,” Yost said.
Yost said that other countries have caught up with the United States and are putting pressure on rural parts in the country. However, Yost feels like the country will become more competitive over time.
Dr. Porter has faced challenging times running a business during the economic downturn.
“It’s a challenging time,” Dr. Porter said. “We must think beyond our normal operating schemes to make things work.”
Hart said Southeast North Carolina is blessed with being the third most agriculturally diverse region in the country. Hart believes the strategy for agriculture in Southeast North Carolina is to keep the raw product in the hands of the farmers.
“We need to find ways for North Carolina farmers to feed North Carolina people,” Hart said.
Both Fayetteville Technical Community College President Dr. Keen and UNCP Chancellor Jenkins believe education is the key element to helping the economy during the economic downturn.
Dr. Keen has seen an increase in enrollment because of the changing workforce.
“The days of industry following cheap labor here are over,” Dr. Keen said.
Dr. Keen went on to say that employers are now looking for employees who have a good education.
Before, industry and manufacturers came to the rural Southeast because they knew they could find cheap labor here.
Now, the workforce has changed and having an education is important in finding a job.
Chancellor Jenkins believes the foundation for all the problems can be solved through education.
He said it is important to start at the lower levels of education with properly preparing the teachers.
“We have to change our focus,” Dr. Jenkins said. “For too long we have focused on schools, and now it is time to focus on parents.”
Dr. Jenkins said that it is important for parents to get more involved and to push their children to graduate.
He also said it is a responsibility of the colleges to make sure students graduate. He said there are too many college students dropping out, especially in rural North Carolina, and they need to be more innovative and entrepreneurial.
“A college degree really transforms an individual and family,” Dr. Jenkins said.
He added that it is the University’s responsibility to be a leader in the community.
“Our greatest impact is being the most outstanding university that we can be,” he said.
Dr. Jenkins said that the one thing he wants for people to take away from the town hall meeting is “a more positive attitude.”
“We need to have confidence that we have some future in the area,” he said. “If we don’t believe there is a future here, there won’t be one.”
All the people that attended the event were given a behind the scenes look at what goes into a television production.
Eight hours before the taping started, five cameras and a crew of nearly 20 people came to start setting up for the program.
The audience was heavily involved in the “NC Rising” taping by submitting questions previously by email and on the floor before the show.
The “NC Rising” taped at UNCP aired Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. on UNC-TV.
There will be three more televised town hall meetings held at Western Carolina University Oct. 28, the United Arts Center of Catawba County Auditorium on the SALT Block on Nov. 4, and East Carolina University on Nov. 18.