HAMLET — New business opportunities became a topic of discussion on Wednesday during the Richmond County Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast at Cole Auditorium in Hamlet.
North Carolina Rep. Ken Goodman, Rep. Garland Pierce, Sen. Gene McLaurin and Congressman Richard Hudson came together during the breakfast to answer questions from residents concerning the county. This included business opportunities as well as obstacles to growth for the county and how those obstacles could be overcome.
McLaurin and Goodman were in agreement that one of the biggest obstacles to Richmond County in growing its business is education not only in the county, but in the state.
“You have to have an outstanding education system,” McLaurin said. “North Carolina was a model to the rest of the country and we’re not a model anymore.”
Goodman said that the attitude that many have towards education needs to change as well.
“Some people don’t realize how critical it is to educate your child,” Goodman said. “Parents need to understand how important it is. Not watching television or playing video games.”
Goodman noted that it wasn’t all parents, but that it was critical to change the mindset towards education.
“Once we do that, things will change,” Goodman said.
McLaurin also discussed how the pay of teachers in North Carolina is hurting the education system.
“Our pay for teachers is not competitive anymore,” McLaurin said.
McLaurin said that more and more students have become uninterested in being future teachers, and that is going to hurt the county and the state. McLaurin said he wanted to see the pay for teachers at least at the average pay in the country.
Pierce hoped to see more pay for teachers and all state workers. Pierce said he hoped the day would come where teachers would stay in the county and state instead of locating somewhere else.
“We want to keep teachers here,” Pierce said.
Goodman took issue with the latest legislation that eliminated career status among teachers and singled out only 25 percent of qualified teachers to receive a raise. Goodman said that the legislation puts teachers against each other and it doesn’t create an environment where teachers want to work together.
Goodman said he wanted to give teachers across the board a raise to help make more people interested in teaching.
“We need to create a situation where our best and brightest want to go into education,” Goodman said.
Goodman also discussed infrastructure as another big obstacle that was facing the county. The completion of Interstate 73 was one example he provided believing that the additional highways would bring in more business for the county.
“Transportation is critical for a rural area like this,” Goodman said.
Pierce focused on selling the positives in the county and that the quality of life available in Richmond County is an excellent selling point to those considering to locate here. Pierce said it was essential to sell the idea that the county is a positive place in which to live and invest.